The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study

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 a review of the literature and presents the results of the first sweep of interviews which took place from September 2013 to January 2014.

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 time. The study is being carried out by the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling for the Scottish Government.

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 welfare changes explored are:

  • Benefit Cap;
  • Additional hours required for Working Tax Credit;
  • Changes to lone parents' obligations;
  • Lone parents moving to Job Seeker's Allowance when their youngest child reaches five;
  • Receipt of Universal Credit, including the move to monthly payments;
  • Disability Living Allowance[2] (in the process of changing over to Personal Independence Payment);
  • Employment and Support Allowance.[3]

1.4 Table 1.1 provides an overview of the number of claimants of selected benefits in Scotland in May 2013 (just prior to the start of the research).

Table 1.1: Number of claimants of selected benefits in Scotland, May 2013

Benefit Number of claimants
Jobseeker's Allowance 130,360
Employment and Support Allowance 195,590
- Work Related Activity Group 67,560
- Support Group 73,410
Disability Living Allowance (working age claimants) 205,000
- Care high rate 46,660
- Care middle rate 71,120
- Care low rate 63,400
- Mobility high rate 95,850
- Mobility low rate 89,260
Income Support (claimants under 60) 90,100
- Lone parents 39,770
- Carers 14,710
Carers allowance (working age claimants) 54,570

Note: some people claim more than one benefit. Source: DWP Tabulation Tool

1.5 The implementation of welfare reform is happening as the UK economy is emerging from a recession. The impact of this recession on the Scottish labour market is outlined in Appendix 5. It is in this context, and the more specific local labour market contexts where each participant lives, that those on out of work benefits are attempting to move from benefits into employment. This context should be borne in mind when considering welfare reforms that aim to encourage claimants to take up employment.

Research objectives

1.6 The research objectives were:

  • To obtain baseline information about a sample of 30 Scottish households with direct experience of welfare changes: The baseline stage of the research involves the selection and recruitment of an appropriate sample of households, and the collection of information from them. The sample is of households with common direct experience of welfare changes, but also reflects some of their diversity with respect to characteristics such as family type, family circumstances, types of benefit received, geographic location and ethnicity. Qualitative interviews are used to elicit information about relevant aspects of their lives, such as income and expenditure, health and well-being, and family life and relationships. They also try to establish some retrospective information about previous income and employment.
  • To obtain follow up evidence on the sample of households, and whether any changes have occurred to the aspects of their lives explored in the first interview: This 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.
  • To analyse and report the differences between time points, potential reasons for these differences, and the implications of these findings for understanding the impact of welfare reform and the appropriate response from the Scottish Government: This 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.
  • To continue to collect and analyse this information at intervals over three years: Subject to a contract extension, Households will be re-interviewed at intervals, to track the longer term impact of welfare changes on family life. Reports will be produced for the Scottish Government bi-annually. In order to achieve a final sample of 30, the first sweep of interviews included 43 people, so as to allow for a drop off in the numbers of participants over time.

1.7 This interim report covering Sweep 1 of the interviews has been prepared for the Scottish Government to show progress to date and initial findings. These findings open up further issues which will be explored in purposefully tailored, subsequent sweeps, the second of which will commence in April 2014.

Structure of the Report

1.8 Chapter 2 outlines the literature surrounding welfare reform. There is a focus on reform overall, and particular attention is paid to changes which may impact upon specific groups.

Chapter 3 sets out the research methods used for the interviews, and the rationale behind the longitudinal qualitative approach used.

Chapter 4 presents the key themes the study has uncovered within the first sweep of interviews: current and recent experiences of claiming benefits; stigmatising attitudes; income and financial situation; employment and training; awareness of benefit changes; and experiences of these changes. In addition, this chapter covers the move to monthly payments and changes to the way in which payments are made, sources of support and support when in a crisis situation. Finally, the impact welfare changes have had on participants' health and the particular problems encountered by people living in rural areas are reported.

Chapter 5 presents the conclusions that have been reached so far and suggestions for inclusion in Sweep 2.

Appendix 1 provides an overview on the current range of benefits provided in the UK.

Appendix 2 shows the interview schedule used in Sweep 1.

Appendix 3 shows the consent form.

Appendix 4 shows the participant information sheet.

Appendix 5 outlines the general labour market context.


Email: Franca MacLeod

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