The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study - Year 1 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 year of the study by presenting results from the first two sweeps of interviews. Sweep 1 took place from September 2013 to January 2014 and sweep 2 took place from April 2014 to July 2014

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1 Introduction

  • Chapter 1 presents the background and research objectives of the study 'The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland'.
  • The structure of the report and chapters are briefly described.


1.1. The aim of the study is to explore the impact of on-going welfare changes on a range of households in Scotland over a three year period (2013-16). The study is being carried out for the Scottish Government by the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling.

1.2. The study will help to increase understanding of the impact of the welfare changes in Scotland as they occur over time, and will assist the Scottish Government in making decisions related to those areas within its devolved responsibility.

1.3. The main welfare changes explored in the study can be summarised as:

  • System-wide reforms, such as the introduction of Universal Credit, the introduction of a benefit cap for households, and the replacement of elements of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund with the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF); Changes to Local Housing Allowance[2] (LHA) and Housing Benefit (HB), including the changes to housing benefit known as the 'bedroom tax' (also known as the 'removal of the spare room subsidy');
  • Changes to disability benefits, such as the reassessment of Incapacity Benefit recipients for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the time limiting of contributory ESA, and the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for working-age recipients;
  • Changes in conditionality, such as the new sanctions regime for those claiming out of work benefits, and increased obligations upon lone parents to seek work;
  • The freezing and tapering of Child Benefit, and changes to tax credits, including the freezing or removal of some tax credit elements, and an increase in the number of hours of work required to claim Working Tax Credit (WTC).

1.4. A more comprehensive overview of the welfare reforms affecting working age people in Scotland can be found in Table A1.1 in Appendix 1.

1.5. The implementation of welfare reform is occurring as the UK economy is emerging from a recession. It is in this context, and in the more specific local labour market context in which each participant lives, that those receiving out of work benefits are attempting to move from benefits into employment.

Research objectives

1.6. The research objectives of the study are:

  • To obtain baseline information about a sample of 30 Scottish households with direct experience of welfare changes: The baseline stage of the study involved the selection and recruitment of an appropriate sample of households, and the collection of information from them. The sample selected was of households with common direct experience of welfare changes, but also reflecting some of their diversity with respect to characteristics such as family type, family circumstances, types of benefit received, geographic location and ethnicity.
  • To obtain follow up evidence on the sample of households about relevant changes to their lives since the first interview: This ongoing aspect of the study involves re-interviewing original participants about their family situation, with particular interest in any changes that have occurred, the impacts of these changes and their perception of the reasons for these changes. This information will be collected twice per year over three years.
  • To analyse the differences between time points, and potential reasons for these differences, and the implications of the findings for understanding the impact of welfare reform and appropriate responses from the Scottish Government: Reports will be produced for the Scottish Government bi-annually. The study will be used to inform the Scottish Government about significant or emerging problems encountered by households, to assist in them framing their response to these.

1.7. This report, covering Sweep 1 and Sweep 2 of the interviews, has been prepared for the Scottish Government to show continuity and change in participants' experiences over the first year of the study. These findings open up further issues which will be explored in subsequent sweeps.

Structure of the Report

1.8. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the current progress of welfare reform, and the number of recipients affected by changes to the different benefits and tax credits. It also reviews some of the literature on these reforms that has been published since the first interim report of this study (Lister et al., 2014).

1.9. Chapter 3 sets out the research methods used in the study, the selection of the interview sample, and the rationale behind the longitudinal qualitative approach used.

1.10. Chapter 4 presents the key themes the study has uncovered in the first year.

1.11. Chapter 5 presents the conclusions that have been reached in Year 1 of the study and issues for consideration in the next year.

1.12. A separate document contains appendices with supplementary information to the report. Appendix 1 provides an overview of the key welfare reforms and when they were, or are expected to be, implemented. Appendix 2 provides an overview of working-age benefits currently provided in the UK. Appendices 3 and 4 show the interview schedules used in Sweeps 1 and 2 respectively. Appendix 5 shows the consent form signed by all participants prior to participation at each sweep. Appendix 6 shows the information sheet about the study that was given to participants.


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