Qualitative study of welfare reform shows those affected find it harder to find and keep jobs

3 December 2014

The charity Community Links have published the third report in their longitudinal study of the cumulative impact of welfare reform in the London borough of Newham.

The employment findings show that people affected by multiple cuts viewed work prospects as precarious or ‘not possible’, and those in work (often in low paid and temporary positions) reported that they were not financially better off, with many still dependent on financial assistance from the state.

The report states that ‘Work did not necessarily alleviate financial pressures created by welfare reform. In fact people found that they struggled with new welfare challenges when they moved into work such as changes to Tax Credits.’

The study ‘Just About Surviving’ carried out in depth interviews with 18 participants, and conducted focus groups with Community Links employment and advice staff. Participants were effected by a combination of reforms including, the bedroom tax, benefit caps, council tax changes, ESA re-assessments and tax credit reductions. The aim was to provide an insight into how well the reforms are achieving their intended aims and to explore the additional impacts that benefit cuts have had on people’s lives.

The research covers peoples’ experiences of finances and budgeting, work, housing and support. It makes the point that people are feeling increasingly stressed and squeezed in all of these areas which impacts on their physical and mental health, causing them to retreat into ‘survival mode’. The report also concludes that ‘financial support (mostly in the form ofDHP [discretionary housing payment]) has been crucial to some people surviving but it is not sustainable’. For other news this week about DHP click here.

The study also responds to the call for an independent Cumulative Impact Assessment from campaigns such as the WOW Petition and Disabled People Against Cuts. It states: ‘In the absence of an official cumulative impact assessment, this report makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the impacts of the coalition’s welfare reforms’.

The report was launched this week at the House of Parliament at an event hosted by Dame Anne Begg MP and chaired by Patrick Butler of the Guardian.

Patrick Butler has also written about the recent report on his Cuts Blog for the Guardian.