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Social security, exponential inequalities, and Covid-19: how welfare reform in the UK left larger families exposed to the scarring effects of the pandemic

Reeves, Aaron ORCID: 0000-0001-9114-965X, Andersen, Kate, Reader, Mary ORCID: 0000-0002-2154-1813 and Warnock, Rosalie (2023) Social security, exponential inequalities, and Covid-19: how welfare reform in the UK left larger families exposed to the scarring effects of the pandemic. In: Atrey, Shreya and Fredman, Sandra, (eds.) Exponential Inequalities: Equality Law in Times of Crisis. Oxford University Press (U.S.), New York, NY, 61 - 78. ISBN 9780192872999

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Identification Number: 10.1093/oso/9780192872999.003.0004

Abstract

Covid-19 has put social security systems under immense pressure. Governments saw demand for social security rise dramatically whilst attempting to support those whose employment had temporarily stopped once severe economic restrictions were put in place. Drawing on a range of evidence (including original interviews), this chapter focuses on the experience of larger families (households with three or more children) during the pandemic as a way of illuminating how these pandemic-induced policy responses often failed to reach those groups who have been subject to austerity measures over the previous decade. We explore this in three ways. First, we unpack how the government's response to Covid-19 left larger families in a precarious position. Secondly, we situate the experience of larger families in the context of a wider set of reforms to social security-such as the benefit cap, the two-child limit, and the benefits freeze-which have already pushed even more larger families into poverty over the last decade. The final section of the chapter draws out how these policy decisions exacerbate inequalities between groups, while alluding to implications for protected characteristics as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010. This analysis not only illuminates how the pandemic has increased gender and ethnic inequalities but also suggests that the degree to which the pandemic was inequality-generating is rooted in policy decisions made before the pandemic even began. Avoiding exponential inequalities in response to future crises requires that policies-and the discourses which surround them-are sensitive to the potential for other kinds of societal shock.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/exponentia...
Additional Information: © 2023 The several contributors
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2023 16:51
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 02:43
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/118447

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