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Implementation and Effects
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This edited collection considers how conditional welfare policies and services are implemented and experienced by a diverse range of welfare service users across a range of UK policy domains including social security, homelessness, migration and criminal justice.

The book showcases the insights and findings of a series of distinct, independent studies undertaken by early career researchers associated with the ESRC funded Welfare Conditionality project. Each chapter presents a new empirical analysis of data generated in fieldwork conducted with practitioners charged with interpreting and delivering policy, and welfare service users who are at the sharp end of welfare services shaped by behavioural conditionality.

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This edited collection considers how conditional welfare policies and services are implemented and experienced by a diverse range of welfare service users across a range of UK policy domains including social security, homelessness, migration and criminal justice. The book showcases the insights and findings of a series of distinct, independent studies undertaken by early career researchers associated with the ESRC funded Welfare Conditionality project. Each chapter presents a new empirical analysis of data generated in fieldwork conducted with practitioners charged with interpreting and delivering policy, and welfare service users who are at the sharp end of welfare services shaped by behavioural conditionality.

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This edited collection considers how conditional welfare policies and services are implemented and experienced by a diverse range of welfare service users across a range of UK policy domains including social security, homelessness, migration and criminal justice. The book showcases the insights and findings of a series of distinct, independent studies undertaken by early career researchers associated with the ESRC funded Welfare Conditionality project. Each chapter presents a new empirical analysis of data generated in fieldwork conducted with practitioners charged with interpreting and delivering policy, and welfare service users who are at the sharp end of welfare services shaped by behavioural conditionality.

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Conditionality is embedded into many areas of social welfare and has become increasingly stringent in the last twenty years. This chapter explores welfare conditionality in the context of family-based intervention projects that have been a policy mechanism to deal with the longstanding issue of so-called ‘problem’ families since 1997. Programmes, such as Family Intervention Projects and the current Troubled Families Programme are an assertive and joined up approach to challenge the perceived negative behaviours of families. This chapter, drawing on PhD research, questions the concept of behaviour change – and importantly, what counts as successful behaviour change in policy and practice. The research shows that practitioners acknowledge families cannot always change their behaviour or sustain behaviour change in line with policy expectations, especially if their basic needs have not been met. Therefore, this chapter considers the policy implications of non-behaviour change by exploring the concept of ‘good enough’ change, defined by practitioners as enabling enough progress for families to function from day to day without equating to transformative behaviour change. The chapter argues there needs to be a more nuanced conceptualisation of behaviour change that embeds the complexities and nuances of engagement and non-engagement.

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The arrival of large numbers of Central and Eastern European migrants to the UK has been met with political and public debate around the perceived impacts on indigenous labour market opportunities coupled with fears about the demands placed on the welfare system. Within this broader migration, the arrival of Roma has triggered particularly prejudicial reactions. However, little is known about how Roma experience the social security system within the UK, particularly within a situation of increasingly conditional rights for European migrants. This chapter begins by highlighting some of the pervasive narratives in relation to Roma that focus on their supposed disproportionate representation within benefits systems and the subsequent responses of Member States to such (mis)representations. Drawing upon interviews with Roma migrants claiming social security benefits in the UK, the chapter then provides insights into how they respond to the conditionality inherent within the UK social security system. The chapter highlights that, contrary to pervasive narratives, claiming benefits appears to be a last resort after multiple job search attempts. Furthermore, welfare conditionality has the potential to lead Roma to disengage with the benefits system altogether and seek informal employment in order to meet their basic needs.

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In exchange for their receipt of conditional benefits such as JobSeekers Allowance and Universal Credit, people experiencing homelessness are expected to engage in mandatory job search or other work-related activities. However, many homeless people have become alienated from mainstream employment support as a result of difficulties in meeting these compulsory conditions. Recognising their exclusion from the mainstream welfare system, this chapter focuses on an alternative source of employment support for homeless adults - that offered by third sector homelessness organisations. Drawing on new data from interviews with homelessness practitioners, it uncovers a range of employment-related support available to homeless people accessing support from third sector providers. It then considers two key potentially contradictory issues. First, whilst a range of employment-related support services delivered by third sector organisations’ own programmes and initiatives are identified, much of this appears to be focussed on mitigating the impacts of the increasingly conditional nature of the statutory welfare system. Second, while appearing critical of the increasingly conditional statutory system and the impacts that a punitive welfare state is having on those they are supporting, some of the approaches adopted by these agencies also incorporate elements of conditionality.

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This chapter explores the lived experiences of women at the penal-welfare nexus, a space where social policy and penal policy overlap. Drawing on new empirical data from qualitative interviews with 24 women who have been subject to criminal justice supervision and interventions in the community and who are in receipt of social assistance benefits, it explores their attempts to move away from the social margins and move closer to the labour market. It therefore examines how UK social institutions, and in particular a welfare system characterised by increasing conditionality, impact on women engaged in community-based services which aim to divert them from prison and reduce recidivism. In doing so, it foregrounds the context of gendered precariousness which criminalized women inhabit at the penal-welfare nexus. This author argues that the problem for this group is not so much the behaviour change agenda and sanctions that underpin the UK’s increasingly conditional social security system; many make attempts to live a ‘good life’, and the experience of sanctioning is low – rather, for women experiencing advanced marginality, it is the dearth of support available to help them reach their goals.

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This chapter examines the ways in which welfare conditionality impacts upon homeless migrants in the UK. Legal status, eligibility requirements and behavioural controls determine access to benefits, housing and State assistance, compounding the precarity of homeless migrants who are situated at the interstices of multiple (and competing) systems. The chapter looks how specific conditions both constrain the choices of homeless migrants and how efforts at behavioural change are resisted. Using data from a study of Polish rough sleepers in Scotland, this chapter asks: To what extent is non-participation a consequence of passivity or a feature of active choice? In what ways do those facing extreme precarity and constrained choice resist welfare conditionality? The study argues that for some rough sleepers, homelessness can be a form of resistance to eligibility and behavioural conditions attached to welfare and sleeping rough can be an act of dissent to forms of State control.

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This chapter considers how Universal Credit (UC) has been shaped by the rise in political and public expectations that benefit claimants should be held personally responsible for, and expected to overcome, their vulnerable circumstances. Part One explores how successive British governments have co-opted longstanding political and public attitudes towards the protection of ‘the vulnerable’ to justify the extension of behavioural conditionality to increasing numbers of UC claimants. Part Two then draws upon data generated in semi structured interviews with 18 UC claimants to explore how UC policies aimed at protecting those in vulnerable positions act to ease, circumvent or exacerbate lived experiences of vulnerability. The chapter concludes by arguing that UC can act to further exacerbate the social exclusion of vulnerable UC recipients who are unable, or unwilling, to accept the conditions attached to their benefit claim.

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