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Author: Marsha Wood

Helping parents meet the cost of childcare is an important policy objective in the UK and there are various financial subsidies available. For low-income working parents, this support is increasingly provided through Universal Credit, the main means-tested benefit for working-age people in the UK. This article draws on qualitative interviews with parents on Universal Credit and explores issues of awareness, affordability, administration and the consequences of embedding childcare costs into a monthly-based means-tested system. The conclusions reflect on the implications for the Universal Credit goals of supporting employment, of simplification of the system, and of increasing personal responsibility.

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Author: Marsha Wood

This article considers the data collection practices of voluntary sector advocacy organisations and the impact that poor recording of referral and outcome information can have on the future of independent advocacy services for looked-after children. The article draws on research conducted by the author exploring the characteristics of young people using voluntary sector advocacy services. The study involved the collection of information from 11 voluntary sector advocacy organisations during the year April 2010 to March 2011 on the young people using their independent advocacy services. While the data provided gives some important information, a lack of systematic recording by organisations meant that we were unable to get a detailed picture of service use and effect. The article argues that a lack of available evidence may hamper the long-term future of this important area of voluntary sector support for looked-after children.

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Authors: Marsha Wood and Fran Bennett

The expansion of the UK’s support for families with children from the late 1990s was put into reverse over the decade from 2010. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, parents may have felt that they had less support from the government and increased private responsibility in bringing up the next generation. Drawing on qualitative interviews with parents in England and Scotland claiming Universal Credit, this article analyses parenting experiences for low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular concerning the costs of looking after children, caring for children, and family relationships/mental health. Our findings suggest that the privatisation of parenting in the UK has been further reinforced during the pandemic, with largely negative implications for families with children. The positive experiences for some with families must be supported by public policy change to persist.

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Couples Managing Work, Money, and Care under the Shifting Landscape of Universal Credit is a three-year longitudinal, qualitative research study carried out in a collaboration between the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath and the University of Oxford. The research investigated how low-income couples, both with and without children, unemployed and employed, managed work and care arrangements, household finances, and gender roles and relations while claiming Universal Credit. Drawing on two phases of interviews conducted in 2018/19 and 2020, this chapter explores the experiences of two families, one living in England and the other in Scotland; one with two working parents by 2020, and the other with neither in employment. We draw on a total of five individual and joint interviews with each couple: individual, face-to-face interviews with each of the partners, and a joint interview, all carried out in 2018, together with a telephone interview (due to COVID-19 restrictions) with each partner in September 2020. Case summaries explore how each family fared during this two-year period of claiming Universal Credit, examining the extent to and ways in which the various emergency measures put in place by the Government to mitigate the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped them.

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Qualitative interviews with 91 young people aged 13–18 in Bulgaria, Cyprus, England, Italy and Norway explored their experiences of intimate partner violence and abuse (IPVA). Some young women experienced extensive offline sexual pressure and young women were substantially more negatively affected by IPVA than young men. The data revealed that online space has created new mechanisms of control and surveillance that can intensify the impact of offline abuse. Analysing the data in the light of existing theories of cultural violence and coercive control, we explore both the normalising influence of prevailing heteronormative models of femininity and masculinity as well as young people’s agency to resist such normalisation.

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