"Designed to reduce people... to complete destitution": human dignity in the active welfare state

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This paper discusses the implications for the right to a life in dignity of the “activation turn” (Kenworthy) in the welfare state, characterised by the requirement that social security claimants be available for and undertake compulsory activities intended to result in finding employment. Failure to comply may result in loss of benefit for up to three years. This paper argues that while activation of claimants is compatible with human rights law, the UK’s sanctions regime may be vulnerable to challenge. The main focus is on whether a regime Webster claims is designed to result in “complete destitution” can be compatible with human dignity. The key focus is on article 3, article 8 and P1-1 ECHR and their relationship to three elements of the protection of human dignity identified by McCrudden: prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, individual autonomy and satisfaction of essential needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-77
JournalEuropean Human Rights Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2014


  • Dignity
  • Welfare reform
  • Social security
  • European Convention on Human Rights
  • Claimant activation

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  • Activities

    • 1 Invited talk

    Welfare, work and wellbeing in the 21 st century social security system

    Mark Simpson (Invited speaker)

    22 Jun 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


    Research Output

    • 1 Commissioned report

    Destitution and paths to justice

    McKeever, G., Simpson, M. & Fitzpatrick, C., 7 Jun 2018, Legal Education Foundation. 95 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Open Access
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