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Mental Health & Universal Credit - Investigating Claimant Experiences

Pardoe, Joe

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Joe Pardoe


Mark Wilding


Markedly as opposed to the reassuring ‘safety net’ moniker used at its inception, state welfare in the UK has become synonymous with narratives around dependency and worklessness, with loaded political rhetoric delivering accusations of malingering and scrounging regarding those who claim benefits. In 2010, Universal Credit (UC) was introduced to overhaul the welfare system, subsuming four existing means tested benefits and two tax credits under a unified system that would cater to all. In the intervening years, the question has been raised about whether this unified approach eschews the stigmatisation of benefits claimants, or whether every claimant, regardless of their individual reasons for claiming, has essentially been tarred with the same ‘work-shy’ brush. Vulnerable individuals, including those with additional health needs, have particularly struggled under UC’s strictly ‘work first’ approach. Furthermore, challenges encountered while claiming UC often encumber those who face continuing adversities related to living with poverty and responding to health needs. Rather than addressing the constituents of an unequal society, the ideological underpinnings of the UC system suggest that individuals are responsible for their adversity;
structural constraints to ‘agency’ (the extent to which one empowered to exert control over their lives) are therefore undermined. Against this backdrop, I position my thesis investigating the mental health experiences of UC claimants in Greater Manchester (a region that experiences high rates of poverty). Sixteen individuals were interviewed between 29th January 2019 and 2nd March 2020, and a structure-agency framework was applied to interpret their experiences. Participants encountered challenges to agency within the overarching structure of the UC system, represented here in the following three distinct, yet highly interrelated themes: financial hardship; advancing through the claims process; being exposed to mental health and claims stigma. Each of these themes represented an impact to agency within the structural context of the UC system, and, especially when they intercepted, this appeared to constrain the capacity to manage mental health.


Pardoe, J. (2023). Mental Health & Universal Credit - Investigating Claimant Experiences. (Thesis). University of Salford

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 29, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 9, 2024
Award Date Dec 8, 2023


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