Social citizenship in the Cameron years: a cold climate for claimants, rich terrain for researchers

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Successive governments since the 1980s have sought to rework and in many respects reduce the social rights of citizenship in the UK, culminating in the ‘welfare reform’ projects of the recent Cameron governments. This period saw an already ungenerous, residual system of working age social security further pared back through cuts to benefit rates, more restrictive eligibility criteria and toughened claimant conditionality. Alongside a self-imposed policy imperative of reducing the public deficit, these reforms were driven by a vision of supporting ‘welfare dependents’ into paid employment as a mechanism for social and citizenship inclusion. The co-authors have each researched social citizenship in the Cameron years, but from different disciplinary perspectives and with a focus on different actors. Patrick’s research, situated within the social policy discipline, examines the experiences of claimants faced with both an increasingly ungenerous, disciplinary system and a related political narrative that can appear to question their worth as citizens. Her findings reveal the ways in which the dominant citizenship narrative can serve to alienate, ‘other’ and undermine the lives and contributions of those in receipt of out-of-work benefits. Simpson’s work, from a socio-legal perspective, focuses on elite actors’ constructions of state responsibility for citizens’ economic welfare, showing that policymakers at different tiers of government are not necessarily united in their vision for how the welfare state should treat claimants. In discussing both pieces of research, this paper demonstrates the need for a combination of approaches for a full understanding of how the current citizenship narrative is conceptualised by elites, how this translates into a set of legal provisions and how it is lived and experienced from below. The authors consider the insights gained from their respective approaches as well as their associated limitations and invite delegates to join a discussion about whether academic disciplinary affiliations help or hinder the development of a rounded understanding of social citizenship.
Period5 Apr 20177 Apr 2017
Event titleSocio Legal Studies Association conference 2017
Event typeConference
LocationNewcastle Upon Tyne, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational