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Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security

Edmiston, Daniel, Robertshaw, David, Young, David, Ingold, Jo, Gibbons, Andrea, Summers, Kate ORCID: 0000-0001-9964-0259, Scullion, Lisa, Geiger, Ben Baumberg and de Vries, Robert (2022) Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security. Social Policy and Administration, 56 (5). 775 - 790. ISSN 0144-5596

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Identification Number: 10.1111/spol.12803


Local state and third sector actors routinely provide support to help people navigate their right to social security and mediate their chequered relationship to it. COVID-19 has not only underlined the significance of these actors in the claims-making process, but also just how vulnerable those working within ‘local ecosystems of support’ are to external shocks and their own internal pressures. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork with organisations providing support to benefit claimants and those financially struggling during COVID-19, this paper examines the increasingly situated nature of the claims-making process across four local areas in the United Kingdom. We do so to consider what bearing ‘local ecosystems of support’ have on income adequacy, access and universality across social security systems. Our analysis demonstrates how local state and third sector actors risk amplifying inequalities that at best disadvantage, and at worst altogether exclude, particular social groups from adequate (financial) assistance. Rather than conceiving of social security as a unitary collection of social transfers, we argue that its operation needs to be understood as much more fragmented and contingent. Practitioners exhibit considerable professional autonomy and moral agency in their discretionary practice, arbitrating between competing organisational priorities, local disinvestment, and changing community needs. Our findings offer broader lessons for understanding the contemporary governance of social security across welfare states seeking to responsibilise low-income households through the modernisation of public services, localism, and welfare reforms.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2022 13:09
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 23:21

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