Salford Researchers – Benefits Sanctions have ‘profoundly negative consequences’

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University of Salford researchers working on a national study say the system of sanctions and support integral to much UK welfare have left some resorting to crime and using food banks.

The Salford academics are partners in the Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change research project, a collaboration between six UK universities: University of York, University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and the University of Salford.

The research is designed to study conditional welfare in the UK, explained on the Welfare Conditionality website:

“By that we mean two main situations. One is where people’s access to welfare is restricted or stopped – for example, by benefit sanctions or rules. The second, equally important, is welfare support – for example, through family intervention projects or help to find work. […] We’re looking into all the effects of sanctions and support on people’s lives.”

In order to do this the team has interviewed 480 welfare service users from 10 locations across England and Scotland. The team at Salford University presented their first set of findings at an event attended by policy-makers and practitioners at Salford’s MediaCity campus on Friday 17th June.

The first wave findings were discussed at the MediaCityUK event by a panel including Professor Peter Dwyer, University of York, Principal Investigator on the collaborative project, Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, Cllr Sean Anstee, leader of Trafford Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority lead for skills and employment, and Malcolm Gardner of the Welfare Reform Club campaign group.

As part of the study, Salford University’s Dr Lisa Scullion, Reader in Social Policy, and Research Fellow Katy Jones interviewed 33 people from across Greater Manchester who have conditions attached to their benefits.

Dr Scullion said those interviewed in Greater Manchester reflected the picture they were seeing nationally in the research. She said: “We’ve interviewed people who have been sanctioned and the impacts have been profoundly negative.

“Some of them have told us they’ve had to go to food banks, and we’ve spoken to people who have said that they’ve had to resort to crime in order to survive. It has affected people’s mental health, and it has an impact on their children”.

Dr Scullion went on to raise concerns about that the current balance in the system appeared to be tipped towards sanctions rather than support, saying: “A lot of people we have spoken to broadly support the principle of conditionality.”

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