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  • Author or Editor: Ben Baumberg Geiger x
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While behavioural conditionality for disability benefit claimants has been increasing, there is little evidence on its implementation or impacts. This article summarises existing studies, alongside an international review based on 140 documents and 38 expert interviews, into four ‘stylised facts’: (1) requirements for disability benefit claimants are common, but sanctioning is rare; (2) assessment and support are critical for implementing conditionality; (3) limited but robust existing evidence suggests that sanctioning may have zero or even negative impacts on work-related outcomes for disabled people; and (4) individual case studies suggest that sanctioning can lead to destitution and affect mental health.

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In a context of ‘hardening’ attitudes towards benefit claimants in Britain, some argue that social security can only be rebuilt when ‘benefit myths’ and negative attitudes are tackled. However, this paper argues that some of these concerns are misplaced, based on evidence on (i) the extent of myths; (ii) the effectiveness of mythbusting; and (iii) the existence of myths/negative attitudes in times/places the benefits system is more popular. It argues that public attitudes are fundamentally characterised by ambivalence, and the critical issue is the balance between positive and negative aspects and which of these are triggered in public debate.

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Welfare at a (Social) Distance is a longitudinal research project examining experiences of social security and employment support in the context of COVID-19. It focuses both on existing claimants and people who have encountered the system for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The project comprises (i) a three-stage claimant survey of 4,000 recent UC claimants and 4,000 pre-existing UC/ESA/JSA claimants (using YouGov’s online panel), (ii) qualitative case studies of local ecosystems of support for working-age benefit recipients (in Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet), and (iii) longitudinal qualitative research with recipients of working-age benefits who were interviewed (twice during 2020/21) about their experiences of the social security system during the COVID-19 pandemic. This chapter draws upon research conducted during the ‘first spike’ of COVID-19 (June–September 2020), with approximately 40 participants who were either living with children in their household, or young adults who had ‘boomeranged’ back into their parents’ home during the pandemic. The chapter will explore experiences of social security and employment support during the pandemic, focusing upon people’s knowledge of the system, experiences of the application process and remote support, and the adequacy of the income that they received.

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