Welfare conditionality: some issues and concerns for families and children AUS conference

good afternoon first of all thanks very much to the good I'm sorry that I can't be there in person but circumstances dictate I need to be here in the UK a whole one I've got to say however is of some use to you I want to do three things today first of all I want to introduce the ESRC funded welfare conditionality project that I lead in the UK secondly I want to say a little bit about how we define welfare conditionality and thirdly I want to move on to discuss with you some of the impacts of welfare conditionality in relation to low parents families children etc moving on to slide to welfare conditionality sanction support and behavior change is a five-year project funded by the ESRC it involves six universities and is an independent academic project so we're not funded by government or any other organisation we're considering welfare conditionality the linking of social security benefits to certain behaviors and conditions effectively we're interested in two key questions we're interested in the ethics and the efficacy of welfare conditionality and as you can see we're involved in fieldwork with three sets of respondents we've done interviews with policy stakeholders we've also done a range of focus groups with people who implement policy for central to the project is a large repeat qualitative longitudinal panel study with a diverse group of individuals who are subject to welfare conditionality in their lives this includes people like unemployed people disabled people social tenants low parents migrants etc the key thing that we're trying to achieve with this is to give a grounded view of the impacts and effects of welfare conditionality on people's lives does it take people closer to the paid labour market does it stop irresponsible behavior now you can see on the bottom of the slide the numbers of long parents that we've interviewed in wage a B and C additionally a number of long parents were interviewed and sampled under different categories as well moving on to slide three what's this welfare condition well if you look at the definition on the top of the slide given by Allen Deakin I think that sums it so nicely certainly welfare conditionality is about combinations of sanction and support of sticks and carrots punishments and incentives perhaps to help cajole compel encourage depending on your point of view welfare recipients into paid work now some people will argue that the sanctions that are inherent with welfare conditionality a hugely problematic and cannot be overcome others will say that there is some space for coercive welfare perhaps to lead people to a better place in their lives conditionality within the UK social benefit system is linked to the receipt of benefits being linked to state specified behaviors and indeed as I'll say a little more later on this has been intensified in recent decades that quote there from the DWP 2008 sums it up nicely conditionality and bodies of principle the aspects of state support usually financial or practical are dependent on citizens meeting certain conditions which are invariably behavioral so it's about changing people's behavior it's about encouraging marginalised groups into paid employment that's what the advocates would say adversary's would argue that that more importantly what welfare conditionality can do is drive people away from collective welfare it can have negative impacts on people and certainly the negative impacts have been a big part of our study to date moving on to slide 4 the purpose of this overcrowded slide is essentially to show you that welfare conditionality is now an embedded part of the UK welfare system in my previous work I've argued that whereas once welfare conditionality correct into policy it is now a ubiquitous part of the UK well first date time dictates I can't go into detail about these initiatives that are set out on this overcrowded slide however the key things that you need to take away from this slide are three first of all welfare conditionality has been intensified from 2010 and new sanctions regime was introduced essentially for a low-level offense such as being five minutes late for an interview at a job centre you will be sanctioned you can be sanctioned and lose up to a hundred percent of your benefit for four weeks for a third high-level repeat offense such as refusal to take a job you can be sanctioned indefinitely until compliance welfare conditionality is also extended across many groups within the UK so for example whereas initially it was only applied to job seekers allowance claimants what we've got now is an extension whereby disabled people under employment and Support Allowance rules are now expected to search for work if they're in what's called the ranked group low parents are not exempt from this either gradually the age at which long parents have got to engage in work focused interviews or seek work for up to 35 hours a week has come down so that parents of very young children now have to be actively seeking work finally welfare conditionality has been personalized with job coaches able to set out variable requirements for individuals to attend job centres work focused interviews specified training or engage in up to 35 hours a week job search so in effect searching for a job becomes a full-time job in itself okay then what do we know about how welfare conditionality works in relation to to parents and children I want to make some general points in relation to sanctions and you can see that on this slide here the first two pieces of data are interesting one of the things we found is that innocent first third parties are often subject to the penalties that sanctions bring with them so there we've got a migrant Scotland who was sanctioned and who kept his child off school for several weeks and underneath that we've got some data there that illustrates a lone parent a mother who couldn't feed herself because of a sanction and was given food to her children moving on to support the support from job centers and work program providers is it best a variable as the first as the first piece of data on that slide emphasizes you've very much left on your own to search for work many of our respondents have argued that the job Center's main role is now policing the benefit claim rather than enabling people and helping people search for work there are some good examples as the final piece of data on this slide shows but it very much depends on which individual you are sat down in front of and whether or not they appreciate your situation there are what's called easements within the system in relation say to lone parents whereby they should not be expected to work around school hours but often these easements are not put into place appropriately because either they do not get discussed or because they can be ignored okay moving on to this central idea that welfare conditionality can enable people into work it's an interesting one this because it doesn't able some people into work but often at surprise well let's start with the first quote on this slide six what this illustrates is that welfare conditionality can be counterproductive effectively this long parent is saying once he was sanctioned once he was hassled he couldn't be bothered anymore so rather than enhancing his search for work he simply was defeated by the system and tried to walk away from it now the extended data that this underneath on slide six I think is important because as I said a moment ago welfare conditionality cam moves from long back into paid work but often at a high price this was a woman that I interviewed and on the first occasion I met her she was working in a family business she was doing 16 hours a week she was quite happy with life for children lone pair and managing quite nicely now the second time we interviewed her she'd lost a job because of circumstances beyond our control this meant that for the first time in many years she had to engage with the Job Center and claimed Jobseeker's Allowance and this was an activity and a situation that caused a great grief essentially she became depressed she had to rely on on a mother who herself was sick to look after the children and she took a job on a flexible contract at various hours that didn't fit with her with her informal caring responsibilities the reason she did this was because she was sick of as she says on the slide being degraded by the job seekers allowance system so effectively in order to avoid the Jobcentre which she said anything was better than that she's taken a job which is done her self harm has done the children harm and she's moved into work now for some people this is a positive outcome she's moved off welfare she's moved into work whereas previously she was working 16 hours on of this flexible contract however she's working sometimes only four hours a week but she does not want to go back to the job center so she's sticking with it until she can find some better employment I'll leave you to decide whether this is a positive outcome but effectively it's a good example of how welfare conditionality can force people and into work work that perhaps is not in their best interest and not in their children's best interests okay final slag now and this is a bit of an advert and there is plenty more that I could have said but as time east I I'm going to move on and tell you about a conference that we're running in in York in England in June and 2018 you'd be very welcome to come to this conference it's advertised on our website www.engvid.com tacked me after this video that's fine my emails on there it'd be very nice to see you at the conference next year and I hope this has been of some use to you and if you haven't turned me off yet thanks very much and enjoy the rest of your day thank you you

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