I am developing ways (using qualitative methodological tools) to better understand working-age social security benefits and related issues that have been exacerbated (or less often created) by the coronavirus pandemic.
The research is motivated by two major, related, challenges:
a) The policy challenges for the working-age social security system that have been revealed or exacerbated by the pandemic, with a focus on key groups, including: disabled claimants or those with a long-term health condition; and claimants balancing paid and unpaid work.
b) The methodological challenges for researchers brought about by physical and social distancing, and the wide-ranging socioeconomic aftereffects of the pandemic, with a particular focus on: the challenges of physical remoteness; lack of inclusive practices in existing methods; ongoing and increased time scarcity of some research participants; and the lack of participatory practices in existing methods.
The broad project phases are as follows.
Preparatory phase: Alongside a more standard process of literature review and methods preparation, I have carried out an explicitly cross-disciplinary learning exercise. Social policy research has much to learn from other areas and disciplines in terms of methods innovation.
Research strands 1 and 2: These strands are focused on developing improved and new qualitative methods tools to understand the functioning of the social security system and how it can be improved. Key topics include: how aspects of conditionality are navigated, how income (in)adequacy is achieved, processes of assessment, communication within the system, and claimant control and ‘voice’ within the system.
Research strand 3: This strand of work sits across strands 1 and 2 and prototypes and implements participatory approaches within which strands 1 and 2 are embedded, drawing on existing models of good practice, and spanning to consider every stage of the research process.