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Before the introduction of the household benefit cap in the UK in 2013 the previous mechanism there limited the income of social assistance recipients was the wage stop, operating for four decades between 1935 and 1975. Similar to the benefit cap, the wage stop reflected and reproduced concerns with incentivising unemployed people to labour. This raises questions about why the wage stop was abolished in the mid-1970s when worries about unemployment continued, particularly its intersections with out-of-work benefits. It is widely argued that the abolition of the wage stop was a consequence of lobbying by the Child Poverty Action Group. Drawing upon records held at the UK’s National Archives, this article argues that this is an over-simplified explanation that, first, ignores concerns with the wage stop that pre-dated the Child Poverty Action Group’s criticism of it, including concerns within the assistance boards with its administration. And, second, while by the mid-1970s there was (albeit ambiguous) concern with the impacts of the wage stop, there was a shift in approach that emphasised the supplementation of low wages with social security benefits, rather than forcing social assistance below the assessed needs of households, as being a preferable means of ensuring the incentive to take wage-labour.

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By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states committed themselves to ensure an adequate standard of living and social protection to all persons with disabilities, including children. Yet, prior studies showed that children with disabilities are more likely to grow up poor. Existing research has mainly focused on single-country case studies or comparative analyses for low- and middle-income countries. Due to the lack of good quality data, comparative studies on poverty outcomes, its determinants and the poverty-reducing role of social transfers among children with disabilities in high-income countries are largely missing. This article addresses these gaps using the 2017 EU-SILC cross-sectional survey. The results show great differences across Europe in the prevalence of childhood disability, the poverty outcomes of children with disabilities and the poverty-reducing effectiveness of social transfers for them. In only a third of European countries are children with disabilities more likely to live in poor households than children without disabilities. Countries that perform weakly for children without disabilities also perform weakly for children with disabilities. Moreover, social transfers achieve more for children with disabilities in more than half of European countries. The family’s employment participation and social background have the expected poverty-reducing effects for children with disabilities and children without disabilities, though the strength of some effects differs between the two groups within certain geographical regions. However, the income-based poverty indicator disregards the higher costs families with children with disabilities face which underestimates their poverty risk. More research is needed on which poverty indicator accurately reflects the real living standards of children with disabilities.

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The Scottish Government has ambitions to build a new social security system in Scotland with new powers over social security. With the ability to now entirely replace the UK’s Personal Independence Payment, highly controversial for the way it has narrowed entitlement and made the process of applying stressful, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to transform both the experience of disabled people in applying for social security and ensure that what is paid more accurately reflects the costs of disability. However, while significant improvements to the process of applying appear to have been made and these are having a positive impact on access to payment, the Scottish Government’s gradualist approach has also put off by some years more fundamental improvements.

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Research on quality of life (QoL) is important for public policies and human development programmes. Given the high proportion of youth within the South African population, and the rapid expansion of informal settlements, the aim of the study was to investigate the socio-economic living conditions of youth in Zandspruit informal settlement and their perceived impact on their QoL. Guided by the Integrated Theory of Quality of Life and a blend of Honwana’s ‘waithood’ and Thieme’s ‘hustle’ theory, the research employed a qualitative, case study approach involving interviews with 20 youth between 18 and 35 years. Caught in prolonged ‘waithood’ between adolescence and adulthood, most participants were unemployed and relied on government grants or piece jobs. They acknowledged challenges that negatively affected their QoL such as lack of basic services which impacted their physical and mental health and feelings of safety. At the same time, they were able to see the benefits of living in Zandspruit such as having sporting programmes, business and job opportunities, availability of goods, and meeting people from different backgrounds. They were able to assert their agency to counter the negative environment and impact of waithood by socialising with family and friends, joining church choirs, engaging in sporting activities, helping children with homework, and persisting with job hunting. These activities represent ways of what refers to as ‘getting by’ while living in ‘waithood’. The study highlights the need to fast-track the implementation of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme by providing essential services.

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Conventional (income-based) poverty measures have been criticised for being narrowly focused and failing to provide evidence that those identified as poor have an unacceptable standard of living. The consensual approach to deprivation addresses both weaknesses by drawing on community perceptions of what items are essential for all and establishing that those who do not have them cannot afford them. In contrast, the consensual income approach maintains the role of income as a key determinant of poverty but uses community perceptions of how much is needed to make ends meet to set a poverty line. Although perceptions vary widely, it is possible to estimate the income level at which people with that income would say that their current income is just enough to make ends meet. This article re-examines this approach drawing on recent developments in poverty research and using new data for Australia. The consensual poverty lines produced are shown to have similarities with those used in existing poverty studies, but also to exhibit important differences. An overlap measure is developed that includes those in consensual poverty who also indicate that their current income is not enough for them to make ends meet. The poverty rates produced by this overlap measure is shown to align with those based on the 50 per cent of median-income OECD equivalised poverty line used in most Australian studies. It is argued that the consensual income approach has the potential to advance our understanding of poverty beyond that provided by conventional income-based measures.

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This article seeks to contribute to the generation of more accurate poverty indicators in the EU, by providing some further evidence of potential bias when joint income-wealth perspective on poverty measurement is not considered. Using the 2018 EU-SILC, we compare the individuals’ financial satisfaction and his/her household classification as at risk of poverty (AROP). We detect a significant group of people whose households are classified as poor but who are satisfied with their economic situation. The explanations for this mismatch lie both in errors in the income estimation and in the presence of household wealth. Through an exploratory analysis with certain limitations, we find that those in this group have different characteristics from the rest of the poor and are more similar to those who are neither poor nor dissatisfied when we analyse economic stress and proxy wealth variables. The article supports the recommendation to revise the AROP indicator based on the joint income-wealth distribution.

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The Household Support Fund is a creature of crises. Initially conceived as a temporary palliative for struggling UK households in 2021 amid the devastating COVID-19 crisis, the local authority administered support is now in its fourth wave. Accounting for over £2.5 billion of funding since its introduction, it is a flagship component of the UK government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis. Drawing on interviews with 12 local authorities, we argue this scheme is part of an ongoing shift towards dependence on localised discretionary funds to mitigate increasingly insufficient central social security support – although the fund provides essential support for struggling households, this is not a role it can fulfil in its current form. The article falls into three parts. The first provides an overview of the origins of this cash-limited HSF scheme and situates it in the shifting role of localised support in the UK social security system. The second provides an overview of the method. The third draws four key themes from the interview data: a lack of funding leading to sticking plaster provision, problematic tensions between supporting those most at need and concerns about dependency on crisis funds, administrative capacity shaping scheme design, and third sector organisations’ increasing role in both mediating and providing support. We conclude that the HSF signifies a significant ongoing shift towards patchwork, localised support in the UK welfare state, subject to unpredictable renewal. Rather than comprehensive centralised provision, funds like the HSF are increasingly being tasked with mitigating insufficient working-age social security.

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This article reviews evidence on and possible causes of non-take-up of social security benefits, focusing on the UK, and analyses the implications of the introduction of Universal Credit for take-up. It discusses why (non-)take-up is an important issue, in relation to those affected, the performance of social policies in relation to their goals and the nature of social citizenship. It explains how take-up is usually measured (or estimated) in the UK, giving some recent results, and describing recent policy decisions to halt the publication of figures on take-up of working-age benefits. It investigates explanations put forward about why entitlements are not claimed, highlighting analysis of obstacles at the individual claimant level; barriers within benefits administration; problems with system design; and wider structural issues in society. It examines the implications of the introduction of Universal Credit both for take-up and for the evidence base about it. The integrated nature of Universal Credit was argued to favour higher take-up; but features of its design and administration may have the opposite effect. Evidence is, however, lacking on the outcome of this combination. The conclusion reflects on the future of initiatives to boost benefit take-up, especially those relying on automation – often interpreted in different ways. It argues in favour of taking more account of the reasons for non-take-up relating to the nature of potential claimants’ relationship with the state, and the characteristics of benefits left unclaimed, rather than assuming that administrative information and automation will overcome all the obstacles currently resulting in non-take-up.

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This chapter examines some of the double binds or contradictions which shape Roma lives, particularly those of women. These contradictions became particularly susceptible to analysis during the COVID-19 pandemic: borne at the junction between structural constraints from without and norms and hierarchies from within, these double binds have been made more salient by the strengthening of rules and by the rampant antigypsyism that the pandemic engendered. However, contradictions warrant further attention even in less ‘exceptional’ times, as they reveal connections and breaking points between the various layers of social belonging – statal, ethnic and familial – that ethnographic work captures. The chapter focuses on a conservative or ‘traditional’ Roma group in southern Romania, both before, in situ and remotely, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It shows how members interiorize and attempt to solve the contradictions that encroach onto their lives under the guise of ‘capability’, an emic term signifying one’s resourcefulness to navigate competing demands even at great personal cost and under the permanent threat of ‘trouble.’

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This chapter revolves around the impacts of the pandemic outbreak on a Bosnian Roma community living in a state-run campo nomadi on the periphery of Rome. Methodologically, the chapter shows that the pandemic has evidenced and even augmented the role of digital technologies in contemporary social life and in research. More than before the pandemic, researchers carrying out ethnographic fieldwork must be aware of the interconnectedness between online and offline worlds, and must incorporate digital technologies as both objects of and tools for their research. The chapter also addresses the dilemmas faced by a researcher with regards to the public denunciation of structural disadvantages witnessed during fieldwork. Politically engaged researchers need to pay attention to how the communities they study do politics. Researchers must follow the communities’ lead when deciding whether to speak against societal injustices – and so make some issues visible – or to remain silent.

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