'We don’t rely on benefits' : challenging mainstream narratives towards Roma migrants in the UK

Martin, PB ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2888-4261, Scullion, LC ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5766-3241 and Brown, P ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5692-4865 2017, ''We don’t rely on benefits' : challenging mainstream narratives towards Roma migrants in the UK' , in: Social Policy Review 29 : Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2017 , Social policy review , Policy Press at the University of Bristol, UK, pp. 199-217.

PDF - Accepted Version
Download (692kB) | Preview
[img] Microsoft Word - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (125kB) | Request a copy
Access Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copy edited version of a chapter published in Social Policy Review 29 : Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2017


One of the prevailing and persistent political and public discourses surrounding immigration suggests that easy access to welfare benefits and public services is a major reason why the UK is a destination of choice for migrants (Page 2009; Anderson 2013). The corollary of this narrative depicts migrants as a ‘drain’ on public resources, taking out far more than they contribute, and competing with ‘native British’ citizens (Spencer, 2012). While counter narratives are evident, they primarily rely on statistical data to highlight a financial net benefit from migration (Dustmann, Frattini, and Halls, 2009), critique the view that the welfare system is unduly generous (Juravle, Weber et. al. 2013), or indict the dominant narrative as xenophobic populism, myth and misinformation (Finney and Simpson, 2009). However, neither side of the debate gives much prominence to the voices of migrants in relation to their motivations for coming to the UK and their interactions with the benefit system. Roma communities have formed a distinct element within the migration of EU citizens to the UK over the past decade. However, there are subtle differences in the way the discourse has been framed towards them. While EU migrants as whole (and individual groups such as Polish nationals) have been accused of forcing down wages, ‘poaching’ jobs or crowding out neighbourhood housing and schools (Pompova, 2015), the discourse has been presented in a particularly racialized way for migrants of Roma heritage, and largely centred on their perceived exploitation of the welfare system (Richardson, 2014) and not their competition for jobs. Media representations have drawn on historic stereotypes and prejudices, implying an inherent culture of dishonesty and idleness exists among this community (Tremlett, 2012). Drawing on qualitative evidence from 19 focus groups with Roma migrants in five locations across the UK, this article highlights the variety of motivations of Roma migrating to the UK, suggesting that, far from being attracted by the UK welfare system, the opportunity to work and create a better future for their families are the primary motivating factors. Indeed, access to benefits proved markedly difficult for Roma, in part because of poor literacy, but also because of the increasingly restrictive criteria that seeks to exclude migrants from accessing the UK welfare system. These factors disadvantaged Roma in relation to both in and out of work benefits, with implications for the social inclusion of this already marginalised community.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Hudson, J, Needham, C and Heins, E
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Publisher: Policy Press at the University of Bristol
Series Name: Social policy review
ISBN: 9781447336211
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Philip Martin
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2017 08:12
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 22:09
URI: https://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/42677

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year