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  • Author or Editor: Lisa Scullion x
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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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  • To consider particular issues of, and threats to, reliability and validity in community research

  • To explore community research in a politicised context

  • To highlight the importance of mutual understanding between the researcher and the community interviewer throughout the research process and the implications for reliability and validity

  • To look at strategies for working with members of excluded groups within community research

This chapter explores issues around achieving reliability and validity in the context of policy-oriented community research with Gypsies and Travellers in England (Brown and Scullion, 2010).

Gypsies and Travellers are acknowledged as one of the most socially excluded groups in England (CRE, 2006). After a number of years of policy inertia on Gypsy and Traveller issues which illuminated a significant shortage of culturally-specific accommodation, the Housing Act 2004 heralded a new, more pro-active approach to meeting accommodation needs. Local authorities were given the duty to assess the accommodation needs, preferences and aspirations of Gypsies and Travellers (as they do for the wider population), and to devise housing strategies and local development plans to facilitate meeting those needs. Consequently, research studies, known as Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments (GTAAs), have been carried out across the whole of England.

Many GTAAs that were carried out over this period directly involved Gypsy and Traveller community members in the research process as project advisors and/or interviewers (Greenfields and Home, 2006; Brown and Scullion, 2010). While some researchers are strong supporters of such community involvement (Greenfields and Home, 2006), Niner (2008) has reported that others are equally strongly opposed.

Bancroft (2005) identifies two broad populations within Gypsy and Traveller communities.

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This chapter explores mainstream narratives regarding a particular EU migrant group in the UK, namely Roma from the Central and Eastern European EU member states — a group that has been particularly strongly associated with ‘benefit tourism’ due to a number of enduring negative stereotypes. The portrayal of Roma populations as ‘benefit tourists’ has become common within popular media over the last decade, both in the UK and the wider EU. Indeed, Roma are especially vulnerable to such characterisation, as this group has been confronted with majority populations’ perceptions and media portrayal of criminality, ‘work-shyness’, and deceitfulness for many years all across the European continent. Furthermore, it is also clear that the content of popular narratives about migrant Roma and ‘benefit tourism’ is not a uniquely British phenomenon. There are prevalent discourses on Roma and welfare not only among established communities in Central and Eastern Europe but also in other locations which have experienced large-scale migration of Roma.

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Research published prior to COVID-19 has illustrated some of the difficulties that veterans can experience within the benefits. Drawing upon unique insights from the UK’s first substantive qualitative research focusing on veterans within the benefits system, this chapter revisits pre-COVID-19 concerns around mental health, benefits processes, and support networks to explore the impact of the pandemic. Drawing on the accounts of a cohort of veterans who have complex needs, we provide important insights for policy and practice in relation to the need for careful consideration of when, how (or indeed whether), we return to ‘business as usual’ within the benefits system. Second, drawing on the accounts of our cohort of veterans provides an important contribution from those whose families are ‘fractured’ or where ‘family’, in the traditional sense, is absent. As such, we highlight the importance of taking a wider perspective on the nature of family, and particularly the importance and function of peer networks when considering how people experience, and are supported through, periods of crisis.

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This paper highlights and explores how conditionality operating at three levels (the EU supranational level, the UK national level and in migrants’ mundane ‘street level’ encounters with social security administrators), come together to restrict and have a negative impact on the social rights of EU migrants living in the UK. Presenting analysis of new data generated in repeat qualitative interviews with 49 EU migrants resident in the UK, the paper makes an original contribution to understanding how the conditionality inherent in macro level EU and UK policy has seriously detrimental effects on the everyday lives of individual EU migrants.

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Exploring Universal Credit (UC) in Salford is a qualitative longitudinal project delivered by the Salford Anti-Poverty Taskforce; a research and knowledge exchange partnership between the University of Salford and Salford City Council. The project began in 2019 and aimed to provide an understanding of experiences of UC in Salford, from the perspective of Salford residents who are claiming UC and also those organisations who are supporting benefit claimants across the City. Drawing upon in-depth interviews undertaken both prior to and during COVID-19, this chapter illustrates change and continuity across an array of complex needs and circumstances facing the participants, including significant health issues, caring responsibilities, housing insecurity, domestic abuse, and financial insecurity. Ultimately what appeared to dominate the narratives were the challenges of life on a low income while managing a range of complex circumstances.

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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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