Welfare reform,work first policies and benefit conditionality: reinforcing poverty and social exclusion?

Client - Economic and Social Research Council

In 2010 the Coalition Government (CG) introduced a more stringent workfare (or work first) regime than under previous New Labour Governments - access to benefits became conditional on tougher work and work-search requirements, and the reforms also involved an increased use of the benefit cap and sanctions. The CG established its flagship welfare to work programme via the Work Programme involving an extension of the market in the provision of welfare to work services for long term unemployed. The report, drawing on stakeholder interviews and literature/evidence based review; (1) analysed and assessed the implementation of the Coalition Government welfare reforms with a specific focus on different aspects of welfare and benefit conditionality;(2) Assessed the extent to which conditionality reinforces poverty and social exclusion of benefit claimants; and (3) Considered how the welfare reforms and increases the conditionality impact on the social rights of claimants. Our findings suggested that conditionality itself seemed to play a relatively minor role in driving  employment outcomes – particularly for the more disadvantaged groups -  and there are potential longer term dis benefits, including issues of poverty, as well as low pay and continued poverty in work.

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