Welfare conditionality in lived experience: aggregating qualitative longitudinal research

Wright, S. and Patrick, R. (2019) Welfare conditionality in lived experience: aggregating qualitative longitudinal research. Social Policy and Society, 18(4), pp. 597-613. (doi: 10.1017/S1474746419000204)

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Punitive welfare conditionality, combining tough sanctions with minimal self-directed support, is a defining feature of contemporary UK working age social security provision. This approach has been justified by policy makers on the basis that it will increase the numbers in paid employment, and thereby offer savings for the public purse that are also beneficial for individuals who are expected to be healthier and better off financially as a result. In this article, we aggregate two qualitative longitudinal studies (Welfare Conditionality, 2014–17; and Lived Experience, 2011–16) that document lived experiences of claiming benefits and using back-to-work support services. In both studies and over time, we find, contrary to policy expectations, that coercion, including sanctions, was usually experienced as unnecessary and harmful and that poverty was prevalent, both in and out of work, tended to worsen and pushed many close to destitution. Conditionality governed encounters with employment services and, perversely, appeared to impede, rather than support, transitions into employment for participants in both studies. These constitute ‘shared typical’ aspects of lived experiences of welfare conditionality. We propose Combined Study Qualitative Longitudinal Research as a new methodological approach to extend inference beyond the usual study-specific confines of qualitative generalisation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wright, Professor Sharon
Authors: Wright, S., and Patrick, R.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Social Policy and Society
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN (Online):1475-3073
Published Online:31 May 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Cambridge University Press
First Published:First published in Social Policy and Society 18(4):597-613
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
674671Sanctions, support and behaviour change: understanding the role and impact of welfare confidentialitySharon WrightEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/K002163/2SPS - URBAN STUDIES