New mechanisms of conditionality enacted through current reforms of the UK welfare system are framed within contested narratives about the characteristics, rationalities and conduct of welfare users. In the problem figuration of welfare reform the orientations and conduct of welfare recipients have been conceptualised and depicted across a spectrum ranging from cynical manipulators gaming the system and subverting the original ethos of the welfare state to vulnerable individuals experiencing compounded disadvantage. This paper aims to strengthen the conceptualisation of cynical manipulation and vulnerability and to empirically investigate how narratives of these ideas are deployed by key stakeholders in the welfare system and the extent to which manipulation or vulnerability are present in the orientations and conduct of individuals in receipt of welfare support.
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