Project Director: Lindsey McCarthy (CRESR) / Richard White (NBE)
Project Duration: 2021
In the last ten years, a wide body of research has shown how the Coalition government’s austerity agenda has fuelled a battery of punitive reforms to the framing, design and delivery of Britain’s Jobcentre Plus. These reforms were found to exacerbate poverty, destitution, ill health, disengagement from support and facilitated transitions into survival crime among out-of-work populations (Welfare Conditionality, 2018). This research has also found that individualised forms of violence among out-of-work populations towards frontline staff doubled in the last decade (Redman and Fletcher, 2021). Collectively, however, out-of-work populations have failed to organise and push back against the injurious delivery and effects of these reforms. Organised struggles among out-of-work groups against Jobcentre Plus offices are at an historic low. Historical evidence suggests this is unusual, as previous economic crises and subsequent phases of punitive reform were swiftly met by hostile responses from organised movements of unemployed people (Rose, 1974; Croucher, 1987).
Consequently, this project seeks to address this historical discrepancy in the behaviour of unemployed people by utilising the present time/resource to address the following set of questions:
- why have unemployed people failed to organise and collectively respond to post-2010 punitive reforms?
- what are the reasons behind differential responses to periods of crisis and punitive reforms by unemployed people throughout the 20th and 21st century?
- what are the key continuities/departures in the material and cultural conditions surrounding unemployed people throughout the 20th and 21st century?
To answer these questions, we will first conduct a rigorous literature review on key public employment service reforms and continuities/departures in UK-based unemployed movements throughout the 20th and 21st century.
Second, we will carry out a small programme of interviews with G4S security guards and other frontline staff in Jobcentre Plus offices. The purpose of this will be to shed empirical light on the conditions in which key employment service reforms are delivered and how this may undermine collective struggles within and against Jobcentre Plus offices.
The research team also includes Richard White and Jamie Redman (Sheffield Hallam University).