Conditionality, surveillance, and citizenship: examining the impacts of the 2010–2015 Coalition Government’s welfare reform program on disabled people living in Scotland

Manji, Kainde Aisha (2017) Conditionality, surveillance, and citizenship: examining the impacts of the 2010–2015 Coalition Government’s welfare reform program on disabled people living in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2017ManjiPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (2MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis examines the impact of reforms to disability benefits enacted by the Coalition Government of 2010-2015 on disabled people living in Scotland. Situating the Coalition’s reform agenda in the context of disability policies since the late Victorian era, it is apparent that the evolution of disability policy has not been a smooth, coherent, or strategic process. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify three trends that have been apparent since 2010. The first relates to the primacy given to participation in employment as the basis for ‘active’ citizenship, underpinned by a conditional approach to the receipt of benefits. The second relates to the conception of disability as an administrative category which is inherently expansive and therefore prone to crisis. Finally, the way in which reforms have been justified with reference to concepts such as ‘independent living’ is identified as a significant divergence from previous approaches to disability policy.
Based on semi-structured depth interviews with twenty-three working-age disabled people, this thesis explores the impact of the Coalition’s reform agenda on disabled people living in Scotland across three dimensions. Firstly, it examines the extent to which behavioural responses to perceived ‘welfare dependency’ are based on a restrictive conception of agency that fails to capture the many and varied ways in which those in receipt of benefits act. Secondly, it explores the reforms as characteristic of a ‘crisis’ in the disability category, and considers the impacts of attempts to contain this crisis through increased reliance on medical testing. Finally, it considers the use of policy language derived from the disabled people’s movement to ascertain whether these changes are reflective of a citizenship agenda in disability policy.
Key findings include that while the Coalition’s approach emphasized participation in the labour market, and drew disabled people increasingly into conditionality, this had not resulted in a rise in labour market involvement for those in this study. Nevertheless, this study also demonstrated that disabled people can and do make a range of contributions to society whether they are in work or not. The findings presented here therefore stand in contrast to narratives that portray those in receipt of benefits as feckless and work-shy. They also serve to challenge some of the dominant assumptions about the agency of those in receipt of disability benefits, and highlight that structural barriers continue to shape individuals lives in many ways.
Furthermore, this work serves to illustrate the challenges of negotiating an increasingly complex process of accessing and being assessed for disability benefits. An important insight related to the way in which tighter eligibility criteria combined with a ‘climate of fear’ brought about by media reporting of the reforms to generate a form of ‘hidden conditionality’. Participants described being under surveillance by authorities and their own communities. Dominant narratives had served to foster feelings of resentment and indeed vindictiveness against a group who were seen to be receiving favourable treatment at a time of austerity. This was reflected in an increase in incidents of hate crime and violence against disabled people.
Finally, this thesis provides an evaluation of the extent to which the Coalition’s linguistic support for independent living was reflected in the lived reality of their reforms. It finds that while the Coalition explicitly drew on the language of the disabled people’s movement in the framing of policies, this discursive support had not been reflected in the experience of these policies. New approaches to the organization of social care in Scotland have also sought to advance the citizenship of disabled people living here. While the introduction of Self-directed Support (SDS) demonstrated considerable potential for a citizenship approach, the overall trend during this period was towards a reduction in the amount of choice and control disabled people were able to exercise.
This work is among the first substantive pieces of research to examine the impacts of the Coalition’s reforms on disabled people living in Scotland. It contributes to knowledge in this area across four dimensions: firstly to debates around the agency and assumed agency of those in receipt of disability benefits; secondly to the understanding of disability as an administrative category, and the implications of this for policy; thirdly in connecting literatures concerning the narrative trends around reform to those concerning surveillance, vindictiveness, and resentment; and finally to the literature on ‘personalization’ in health and social care, and the emerging body of work on the impact of SDS in Scotland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Sections of this thesis have been published in the following: Manji, K. (2017). Social Security Reform and the Surveillance State: Exploring the Operation of ‘Hidden Conditionality’ in the Reform of Disability Benefits Since 2010. Social Policy and Society, 16(2), 305-314.
Keywords: Disability, welfare reform, citizenship, surveillance, personalization.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Pearson, Dr. Charlotte
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Ms Kainde Manji
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8250
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2017 13:57
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2017 08:53

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year