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The Impact of Welfare Reform in Essex: A Report for the Essex Housing Officers' Group

Thiel, D and Speed, E and Cristo, SM (2015) The Impact of Welfare Reform in Essex: A Report for the Essex Housing Officers' Group. UNSPECIFIED. University of Essex.

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Abstract

This report, based primarily on open-ended interviews with 40 people living in Essex affected by the 2013 UK Welfare Reform Act, analyses the financial, subjective and social effects of Welfare Reform on those participants. Almost all participants were affected by having to pay the Spare Room Subsidy (?bedroom tax?) and council tax contributions which had reduced weekly incomes, after paying utility bills, to as little as 10 or 20 pounds, meaning that spending on food and heating was squeezed to less than a minimum, and that many participants had fallen into severe debt with utility companies and housing providers. Many participants had also been affected by the Reforms through being re-categorised as available for work from their previous status as disabled and unable to work. These penalties and re-categorisations had made the UK welfare system increasingly precarious and conditional and this was interpreted by many as form of punishment for life events over which they felt they had little control. The result was high levels of stress which participants felt had affected their physical health and their ability to ?take control? of their lives. However, despite the financial problems occasioned by, in particular, the Spare Room Subsidy, most participants preferred to pay the penalty rather than move to a smaller dwelling. Not moving was largely due to perceptions of needing a ?spare? room due to disability or family responsibilities, strong attachments to local communities and dwellings in which they had lived, often, for decades, and the lack of suitable alternatives. Reforms were also seen by participants as strengthening the discourse on welfare claimants as scroungers and liars, which had a further insidious effect on participants? self-identity and mental health. This stigma was also experienced directly through what participants? saw as the belittling attitude of welfare agency workers, their bureaucracy, and an associated lack of consistent information about the Reforms. Despite this, because of the political narrative about welfare claimants as liars and scroungers, almost all participants thought that Welfare Reform was necessary. Yet, participants felt that the reforms had been aimed at the wrong people i.e. people like themselves who had a moral and financial right to adequate welfare.

Item Type: Monograph (UNSPECIFIED)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Welfare Reform; ‘bedroom tax’; social housing; poverty; exclusion; stigma; precarity; disability; career
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Health and Social Care, School of
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 16:02
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:43
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/18602

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