Conditional and Universal Welfare Benefits in the UK: Social Framings of Entitlement and the Implications for Wellbeing and Inequalities in Health

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Katie POWELL, University of Sheffield, USA
Judy GREEN, JUDY, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
Sarah MILTON, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
Stefanie BUCKNER, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Sarah SALWAY, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Suzanne MOFFATT, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Recent changes to welfare provision in liberal welfare states, particularly around increasing conditionality, have prompted debate about the possible effects on individual wellbeing and public health.   This study draws on data from interviews with 29 older citizens (aged 60 years+) in three areas of England (London, Cambridge and Sheffield) to identify distinct framings of conditionality which influence different consequences for wellbeing.   Entitlement that is understood collectively, as arising from financial or other contributions to a social body, were framed largely as taken for granted expectations of being part of a welfare state.  Uptake of these had positive impacts on the self, beyond the material gains, including the social recognition implied by standing in a reciprocal relation to the state. Entitlement therefore (for those who qualified) was seen as a positive mark of belonging and contributed to wellbeing by facilitating social integration.  Other forms of conditionality, based on individualised concepts of need or vulnerability, fostered debate about legitimacy; fracturing feelings of solidarity.  These framings of welfare benefits reduced uptake of some entitlements (thus having a direct, material impact on health and wellbeing). There were, however, also implications for the structural determinants of health through the erosion of social capital among older people. When considering the wellbeing impacts of introducing further conditionality to welfare entitlement it is important to consider not only the material impact on individuals but also broader effects on relational meanings linking the individual, the social body and the state.