The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study - Sweep 3 Report

The aim of the study is to explore the impact of on-going welfare changes on a range of households in Scotland over time. This report provides the findings from the first three sweeps of interviews, conducted between September 2013 and March 2015. It looks at cumulative impacts over time as well as findings from an in depth module on support accessed by those claiming benefits.

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2. Methodology And Data

  • Chapter 2 outlines the study's methodology and presents the size and key characteristics of the sample.
  • The study utilises a qualitative longitudinal approach in order to best track participants' experiences over time, as the welfare changes are introduced.
  • In-depth, semi-structured interviews were carried out with twenty-eight participants at Sweep 3.
  • All participants interviewed are currently in receipt of working age welfare benefits, and were selected using a purposive sampling strategy which was designed to reach those in receipt of benefits from across Scotland, and cover a diverse set of household circumstances.


2.1. The study takes a qualitative longitudinal approach.[6] Participants have been interviewed three times so far, and will have been interviewed six times by the end of the study.

2.2. In-depth, semi-structured interviews have been carried out with participants at all three sweeps. Interviews in Sweep 1 were used to gather baseline information. In Sweeps 2 and 3, the questions centred on the changes since the last interview. Together with the background information collected in Sweep 1, questions could be more tailored to participants' circumstances, focussing on the areas most relevant to them. In Sweep 3 an additional module of questions on the support networks of participants was also included. The focus of these questions was on how services, organisations and individuals support people, and to identify lessons for how services can better meet the requirements of those who need support.

2.3. In conducting the interviews, the research team used a topic guide to give a clear idea of the issues to cover. The interview schedule used in Sweep 3 is shown in Appendix 3.[7] Most questions focused on open responses, providing the opportunity for participants to give rich, personal and in-depth accounts of their experiences and to raise other issues. This method has also allowed the researchers to build a rapport with participants (this is especially important in helping to minimise sample attrition between sweeps). Interviews were conducted in person, in a private setting in which participants felt comfortable, such as in their own home, or in a more neutral setting such as an advocacy organisation's offices or a café.[8]

2.4. Participants were given an information sheet before participating in the study in Sweep 1 (see Appendix 5). Interviewers reiterated this information prior to subsequent interviews and answered any questions that the participant had. Full consent was obtained before proceeding with all sweeps (see consent form in Appendix 4). Interviews were audio recorded where permission was given, and partially transcribed (i.e. relevant content from interviews, such as the households' accounts of their experiences, but not incidental conversation or 'warm up' questions).

2.5. No payment for time provided by participants was given. However, participants were given a voucher to compensate for out of pocket expenses, at a rate of £10 per household per meeting.

2.6. This study received research ethics approval from Edinburgh Napier Business School's Research Integrity Committee.

Sample characteristics

2.7. Twenty-eight participants were interviewed at Sweep 3 of the study. Interviews took place between November 2014 and March 2015.

2.8. Forty-three participants were interviewed at Sweep 1. Respondents were initially selected at Sweep 1 using a purposive sampling strategy. The main criterion for inclusion in the sample was that the participant was of working age, and in receipt of at least one of the benefits subject to reform. Consideration was also given to obtaining representation across a variety of characteristics such as age, gender, disability, household composition and urban-rural dwelling. The sample is neither large nor 'representative' enough to draw firm generalisations across all people in Scotland. However, the study provides valuable insights into the experiences of those in receipt of benefits and highlights some of the issues faced by specific groups which could be followed up in more depth in other research.

2.9. Over the course of the study there has been some 'drop out', as was expected. The 'drop out' between samples is not permanent in all cases, as demonstrated in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1. Sample attrition

Sweep Sample size Reasons for non-participation
Sweep 1
(Sep 2013 - Feb 2014)
43 N/A
Sweep 2
(Apr - June 2014)
35 2 not available this sweep
2 did not meet inclusion criteria
4 could not be contacted
Sweep 3
(Nov 2014 - Feb 2015)
28 4 not available this sweep
5 could not be contacted

2.10. Table 2.2 shows the characteristics of the sample over the three sweeps of data collection, and highlights that the attrition has been concentrated amongst certain households. Resampling will be used in future sweeps to compensate for the loss of these characteristics as a result of the sample attrition.

Table 2.2: Overview of sample characteristics

Household characteristic Requirements for diverse sample Sweep 1 Sweep 2 Sweep 3 Change between Sweeps 1 and 3
Children with dependent children under the age of five years 5 2 1 - 4
with dependent children over the age of five years 16 13 8 -8
with two or fewer dependent children 16 11 7 -9
with more than two dependent children 3 3 1 -2
without dependent children 24 21 20 -4
lone parent households 10 7 3 -7
where both parents/carers present 9 7 5 -4
Employment where members are employed full-time 2 3 3 +1
where members are employed part-time 2 4 3 +1
where some members are employed and others unemployed 6 6 5 -1
where all adults are unemployed 33 22 17 -16
Protected characteristics households with disabled adults 27 24 20 -7
households with disabled children 3 2 2 -1
household with both men and women 19 16 14 -5
households with working age adults of different ages 19 16 14 -5
households with ethnic minority adults 1 1 1 0
Location rural areas 6 6 4 -2
urban areas (but not cities) 18 15 12 -6
cities 19 14 12 -7
Gender Male 17 15 15 -2
Female 26 20 13 -13
Total sample 43 35 28 -15

Note: Overlapping categories mean that totals within categories may not sum to total sample


Email: Alison Stout

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