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  • Author or Editor: Jenny McNeill x
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This chapter examines the barriers to accessing social housing in an overstretched housing market, as well as the pressures for certain groups to behave in ‘acceptable’ ways to sustain increasingly conditional tenancies, including ‘vulnerable’ groups such as young people, formerly homeless people and those with complex needs. A discussion is included on the selection process for social housing and on exclusionary policies as well as the ongoing surveillance of tenants and their families. The consequences of ‘non-compliance’ in social housing contracts are also discussed. Social housing is explored in the context of its relationship to employment and the continued drive to get people into work, ideas of empowering communities and linked with this, notions of citizenship based on ‘big society’ values.

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Chapter 8 draws together the evidence and discussions presented in the preceding chapters. It is concluded that the imposition of behavioural conditionality as the preferred solution to complex social issues deflects our gaze away from the ideological and structural factors that are fundamental to understanding and responding to the poverty and other inequalities that continue to blight societies. Welfare conditionality is punitive, undermines the promise of social citizenship, sets vulnerable people up to fail and serves individuals with multiple and complex needs particularly badly. Furthermore, it is counterproductive, ineffective and unethical. It is therefore time to end the misguided obsession with behaviour change and focus on promoting meaningful employment support, genuine social security and greater equality.

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Sanctions Support and Behaviour Change

Should a citizen’s right to social welfare be contingent on their personal behaviour?

Welfare conditionality, linking citizens’ eligibility to social benefits and services to prescribed compulsory responsibilities or behaviours, has become a key component of welfare reform in many nations.

This book uses qualitative longitudinal data from repeat interviews with people subject to compulsion and sanction in their everyday lives to analyse the effectiveness and ethicality of welfare conditionality in promoting and sustaining behaviour change in the UK.

Given the negative outcomes that welfare conditionality routinely triggers, this book calls for the abandonment of these sanctions and reiterates the importance of genuinely supportive policies that promote social security and wider equality.

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This chapter initially defines the concept of welfare conditionality within a discussion of the competing principles and normative positions used to justify, or oppose, the provision of collectivised welfare provisions. It argues that the ascendency and consolidation of the principle and practices of welfare conditionality, internationally, is linked to the foregrounding of contractualism and activation inherent in ongoing reforms in many diverse, contemporary national welfare states. It is concluded that welfare conditionality reconfigures and diminishes the notion of social citizenship.

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This chapter outlines and discusses the increasing prominence of welfare conditionality within the UK welfare state. Concentrating mainly on key policies initiated since the mid-1990s, discussions in this chapter outline developments in relation to the implementation of welfare conditionality in three substantive areas of the UK welfare state, namely: social security; social housing; and the management of ‘antisocial behaviour’ among groups of citizens variously labelled as problematic or vulnerable. The chapter locates the intensification and extension of behavioural conditionality within the wider context of policies that have delivered austerity, welfare state retrenchment and devolution since 2010.

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Conditional welfare interventions are regarded as important instruments of behaviour change by many governments. This chapter offers an overview of economic and psychological theories on behaviour change that influence the thinking of contemporary policymakers. A consideration of the conceptualisation of agency and behaviour within the welfare conditionality literature and the relevance of different policy tools (that is, sanction, support, sermons and nudges) that policymakers use when attempting to change the behaviour of those reliant on social welfare benefits and services is offered in the second section. The third section reviews existing evidence on the effectiveness of welfare conditionality, in either moving those reliant on social welfare benefits into paid work or promoting the cessation of problematic behaviour among sections of the population.

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Initially, the differing welfare/work trajectories of those who took part in repeat interviews are mapped. Subsequent discussions draw upon in-depth, longitudinal case studies to enable a more nuanced understanding of how, and why, welfare conditionality structures diverse work-related outcomes for different people, over time. The effectiveness benefit sanctions, and mandatory engagement with work-related activity in moving people into, or nearer, paid employment are considered. The significance of the exercise discretionary powers by street level bureaucrats in triggering both positive and negative outcomes for benefit claimants is also addressed. The final section explores how the introduction of ‘in-work’ conditionality, as a core component of Universal Credit, has impacted the lives and work opportunities of low-paid workers.

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Chapter 5 begins by focusing on the tensions between care and control that are inherent within highly conditional welfare interventions. Presenting analysis of further longitudinal case studies this chapter explores the efficacy and impacts of welfare conditionality in addressing antisocial behaviour among vulnerable people with complex/multiple issues (for example, impairment, substance addiction and homelessness). The differential outcomes of family intervention policies are also considered. The notion of ‘compound conditionality’ is then defined. Discussions here focus on how welfare conditionality, when implemented separately within distinct policy areas (for example, social security benefits, antisocial behaviour interventions, social housing policy), often intersect to impact negatively on individuals who are simultaneously subject to behavioural requirements in more than one aspect of their lives.

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Chapter 6 focuses on the consequences of highly conditional social security systems built around the twin elements of compulsion and benefit sanctions. The first part of the chapter sets out the scope of UK benefit sanctions before moving on to consider how the use of such sanctions impacts on the lives of those people subject to them. Analysis presented in the second part of the chapter documents how and why the threat and/or implementation of benefit sanctions routinely trigger profoundly negative outcomes including poverty, destitution and physical and mental ill-health. The chapter then moves on to consider the diverse ways in which people respond to benefit sanctions, including counterproductive compliance and disengagement from social security systems, and how this varies dependent upon their personal circumstances.

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