Ruth is now at the stage of working through the findings from the research, and starting to publish some of these findings in journal and newspaper articles. Some links to publications about the research can be found below.
Some of the key findings from the research include:
- There is a mismatch between government rhetoric about benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ and the lived reality for those reliant on benefits for all or most of their income.
- Importantly, people do not think about benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’. Rather, they speak very negatively about the life available to them on benefits, with most very keen to get off benefits and into work, if at all possible.
- Being on benefits is not easy, and instead entails lots of hard ‘work’, if we think about work more broadly to include all that has to be done to ‘get by’ on a very small income. People interviewed for this research spoke about having to make difficult decisions over whether to buy essential clothes or food for their family, with mothers sometimes talking about going without meals so their children could be fed.
- While the Government sometimes characterises benefit claimants as passive and inactive, many of the people in this research were very busy even if not in paid work. They were active as volunteers, carers and / or busy with the demands of parenting.
- Importantly, too, although the Government sometimes suggests that people need an extra push to get into work – perhaps via welfare conditions or the threat of benefit sanctions – this study found that people had strong aspirations to work. What is more, many had previous experiences of employment and indeed several of the participants actually found jobs during the course of the study.
- Changes to the benefit system are causing worry, anxiety and stress to many individuals. People feel targeted as ‘scroungers’ and worry about how they will manage as the changes impact on their lives.
- People often do not feel that they are getting much ‘help’ from the government to move off benefits and into work, and this is often a source of frustration.
- Benefit sanctions can make it very difficult for people to afford to manage day-to-day, and can lead to individuals resorting to crime just so that they can eat.
- Changes to the benefit system are not always communicated clearly, and people describe receiving mixed messages and inconsistent information from the Job Centre and Department for Work and Pensions.
Link to articles / papers