Punitive welfare reform and claimant mental health: the impact of benefit sanctions on anxiety and depression

Williams, E. (2021) Punitive welfare reform and claimant mental health: the impact of benefit sanctions on anxiety and depression. Social Policy and Administration, 55(1), pp. 157-172. (doi: 10.1111/spol.12628)

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Internationally, policymakers assume that sanctioning claimants of unemployment benefits will engender both improved employment outcomes and wider positive effects. A growing evidence‐base challenges these expectations, though additional insight is needed from large‐scale longitudinal research. This article contributes by conducting a quantitative investigation into the mental health impacts of benefit sanctions. To do so, it focuses on a recent period in UK sanctions policy in which rates of sanctions varied markedly and their length was substantially increased. Using quarterly panel data for local authorities in England (Q3 2010–Q4 2014) and fixed effects models that control for important confounders, the analysis provides robust evidence that Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) sanctions lead to increases in self‐reported anxiety and depression. Evidence of this adverse impact is particularly clear following the increase in the length of sanctions in October 2012. The results have important implications for contemporary social security policy, which is underpinned by a similarly punitive sanctions regime. Whilst additional individual‐level research is needed to fully consider the causal relationships in operation, the findings support a precautionary approach that should seek to minimise the harm associated with sanctions. This implies taking steps to reduce both the severity and frequency of applied sanctions.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Williams, Dr Evan
Authors: Williams, E.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Journal Name:Social Policy and Administration
ISSN (Online):1467-9515
Published Online:11 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Social Policy and Administration 55(1): 157-172
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
190423ESRC Doctoral Training Centre 2011...Mary Beth KneafseyEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/J500136/1Research and Innovation Services