Needs and entitlements: How UK welfare reform affects larger families
Larger families have always faced a disproportionate risk of poverty. Two recent welfare reforms (the household benefit cap, which limits the benefit income a household can receive, and the two-child limit, which restricts eligibility for child-benefits to two children) are expected to exacerbate this risk even further. These reforms also break with precedent in the social security system by severing the link between assessed need and entitlement to support.
Using a multi-methods approach, this project will seek to answer three questions:
- How has the profile of poverty been affected by the two-child limit and benefits cap?
- How are families coping?
- Has their wider well-being been harmed?
Data from the Labour Force Survey, Family Resources Survey, the British Household Panel Study and Understanding Society will be used to describe the risk and depth of poverty among larger families, as well as their geographic, social and ethnic characteristics, and how this has changed over time. A qualitative longitudinal study will be carried out with primary caregivers in 44 affected larger families in London and Bradford, Three waves of interviews will generate early evidence of behavioural changes and develop a dynamic picture over time, through which it will be possible to contrast families' expectations of how they will cope, with what actually occurs. Innovative quantitative methods will be used to explore the impact of the policies on parental mental health and the self-reported well-being of children in affected families.
The project also includes participatory elements. The research team will work with members of larger families living in poverty to discuss policy recommendations, and to explore together the data which emerges from the quantitative analyses.
The findings from this research will enable better understanding of welfare reform's impact on larger families and contribute to the evidence base on the impact of separating benefit from need, for future social welfare policy. The Child Poverty Action Group will be working with the project team throughout to support policy engagement and the widespread dissemination of findings.
The project has its own website here.
Duration: February 2020 to September 2022
Funded by The Nuffield Foundation
Associate Director of CASE and Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy
University of York (Principal Investigator)
University of Oxford
Research Officer, CASE
Research Fellow, University of York