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"I'm a survivor not a skiver": Disabled people's experiences of welfare con...

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University of Salford, Room MS167/168

Mary Seacole Building

Frederick Road Campus, The Crescent

Salford

M6 6PU

United Kingdom

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Over the years UK Governments have extended the use of welfare conditionality to more marginalised groups. Whereas in the past, disabled people’s rights to unconditional welfare were defended, significant numbers of disabled people have in recent years been re-classified as ‘fit for work’ as a result of this policy shift towards increased conditionality targeting more welfare service user groups. This paper discusses findings from a five year ESRC project exploring the ethics and efficacy of welfare conditionality.

Drawing on repeat interviews over three years with 58 disabled welfare service users across England and Scotland, the paper explores the experience and impact of welfare conditionality. In particular participants described the process of claiming disability-related benefits as stigmatising, with some describing the medical assessments as demeaning, traumatic and even painful. The medical assessments are conducted by private contractors and participants felt they were treated unfairly, under suspicion and under surveillance. The findings reveal that notions of ‘deservedness’ are embedded in this system as disabled recipients argue for their entitlement to welfare claims relative to what are deemed to be less deserving groups of benefit claimants. This indicates an increasing competition ethic within different sections of the most marginalised social groups that facilitate further forms of social fragmentation, particularly in relation to opposition to benefit cuts. The impact of media and political scapegoating of the most marginal has generated divisions within even those who position themselves as legitimate recipients.


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Dr Jenny McNeill is a Research Associate at both University of Sheffield and University of York on the ESRC funded project entitled: “Welfare conditionality: sanctions, support and behaviour change”. Prior to this research position she worked as a Senior Benefits Advisor for Nottingham City Council and as a researcher for the University of Manchester, Nottingham Trent University and Hostels Liaison Group in Nottingham. Her PhD from Nottingham Trent University in 2012 explored the role of employability in the resettlement of single homeless people.

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University of Salford, Room MS167/168

Mary Seacole Building

Frederick Road Campus, The Crescent

Salford

M6 6PU

United Kingdom

View Map

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