This PhD is designed to re-analyse the ‘Welfare Conditionality’ Qualitative Longitudinal Research data set to establish original knowledge about how conditionality impacts on young people’s lived experiences of claiming benefits and looking for work in Scotland and England.
Welfare conditionality has been at the heart of a fundamental and controversial transformation of the British welfare system. In contrast to traditional rights-based social security, conditionality aims to stimulate job entries by requiring intensive job-seeking behaviour, backed by one of the toughest sanctions regimes in the world (e.g. removing benefits for up to three years). The on-going roll out of Universal Credit extends conditionality to in-work claimants, disabled people, carers, lone parents with pre-school children, and claimants’ partners.
Recent research suggests that young people aged 18-24 are disproportionately affected by these reforms because they are at twice the risk of unemployment (compared with those aged 25-64) and face the highest risks of benefit sanctions. Young people are also multiply disadvantaged, with reduced social security entitlements than older citizens; lower earnings potential (lower national living wages); and confronted with barriers to establish housing and financial independence due to increasingly precarious work conditions and housing insecurity. Growing numbers of young people have hence become economically marginalised within a context of growing precarity in an unequal, insecure labour market characterised by underemployment and in-work poverty. However, little is currently known about how young people growing up in this context experience the policies that intensify conditionality and limit welfare support, which hold potentially harmful and long-lasting impacts. This doctoral project is designed to contribute new knowledge on how young people experience and are impacted by conditionality over time and whether conditionality is effective or ethical for them.
The candidate will work at the forefront of methodological innovation and learn and apply advanced large-scale qualitative data analysis techniques, including QSR NVivo framework matrix analysis, during the project. The core objective is to work with secondary datasets and reanalyse the Welfare Conditionality youth data and, additionally, to potentially re-contact a group of the original participants for re-interview.
The outcome of the research will be new findings about the long-term impacts of welfare conditionality on young people and a set of policy and practice recommendations to address these in Scotland, UK and international levels.