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A Grounded Theory Study of Disability Benefit Changes

Author: Jessica Saffer

The harm caused to disabled people by welfare reform

Dr Jessica Saffer, in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire and the Centre for Welfare Reform, has conducted research into the impact of changes to disability benefits on individuals’ wellbeing and identity. She argues that the Government’s recent decision to review all £1.6m claims to the PIP system is too little, too late; the damage has already been done and we need to do more to support disabled people to afford a basic standard of living and to be full citizens within our society.

Dr Saffer can use her research findings to make the following points:

  • Disabled people experience the benefits system as powerfully dehumanising. The whole process of applying for benefits is detrimental to both mental and physical health, and can lead to suicidal thinking.
  • Disability benefit claimants feel that they live in a judgemental society, where they are perceived as ‘scroungers’ and where they face regular discrimination from others. These pervasive discourses have a huge negative impact on their mental and physical health, wellbeing and their sense of self.
  • This detrimental impact on quality of life can arguably potentially increase the likelihood of reliance on benefits and prolong the distress of living as a benefit claimant.

The system needs to be changed to prevent its detrimental impact in the following ways:

  • Assessors trained in how specific disabilities affect people
  • More weight given to medical experts’ opinions
  • Have only one assessment for disability-related benefits
  • A needs-based assessment rather than points-based approach
  • A review of the decision-making process for those who receive a home assessment
  • Shorter forms with clearer wording, available in various formats
  • One accessible source for benefits related information

Additionally, many of the participants in this research felt that the recent changes in benefits, as well as the stigma surrounding disabled benefit claimants, are politically and ideologically driven, with the aim of cutting back significantly on welfare spending. Dr Saffer argues that politicians and journalists should be challenged about playing politics with the lives of people with disabilities. Her research suggests that space should be created for personal accounts to be placed in the public domain, so that counter-narratives become available to a wider audience and the day-to-day human suffering of people living with disabilities, as caused by the cuts to benefits and the inaccessible and inhumane benefits application processes, become more widely known.

Jessica is happy to discuss her work further and invites any collaborations or questions, please contact her by Email

Read and download the research report (pdf) in your browser here.


The publisher is University of Hertfordshire.

A Grounded Theory Study of Disability Benefit Changes © Jessica Saffer 2017.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

Documents

People

Jessica Saffer

Jessica Saffer

Library

A Fair Society?

A Fair Society?

Produced for the Campaign for a Fair Society, this report shows how government cuts in the UK target disabled people.

Counting the Cuts

Counting the Cuts

This report was one of the first quantitative analyses providing an estimate of the cumulative impact of UK Government cuts on disabled people and those in poverty.

Replacing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Replacing Employment & Support Allowance

This research by Stef Benstead and Emma Nock, published by Ekklesia, looks at the support needs of people with chronic illness with regard to replacing Employment Support Allowance.

Impact of PIP on Social Care

Impact of PIP on Social Care

This analysis was carried out on behalf of We Are Spartacus and estimates how the end of DLA will hit local government.

Briefing on PIP Mobility Consultation

Briefing on PIP Mobility Consultation

The briefing sets out the concerns of disabled people and others in relation to the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Spartacus Response to Cuts in ESA

Spartacus Response to Cuts in ESA

The Spartacus Network show how Government policies are unfair, unreasonable and in conflict with International Human Rights.

The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment

The People's Review of the WCA

This report was written in response to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which assesses an individual’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

UBI: A Psychological Impact Assessment

UBI: A Psychological Impact Assessment

An important report which sets out the case for Universal Basic Income (UBI) from the perspective of psychologists.

How Does It Feel To Be Assessed?

How Does It Feel To Be Assessed?

Chris Akers explores how it feels for people with physical disabilities to be assessed for receipt of benefits.

The Different Kinds of UK Benefits

Graphic: All UK Benefits

Benefit expenditure is primarily focused on pensions, housing costs and the collapse in middle-income salaries.

Who Really Benefits from Welfare?

Who Really Benefits from Welfare?

Simon Duffy looks at how the tax benefit system really works and wonders who are the real beneficiaries of this system?

The Reality of Disability Benefits

The Reality of Disability Benefits

One man's experience of disability benefits.