Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security

Edmiston, D, Robertshaw, D, Young, DHJ ORCID:, Ingold, J, Gibbons, AR ORCID:, Summers, K, Scullion, LC ORCID:, Baumberg Geiger, B and de Vries, R 2022, 'Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security' , Social Policy & Administration .

PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview
[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (356kB)
[img] Microsoft Word - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (57kB)


Local state and third sector actors routinely provide support to help people navigate their right to social security and mediate their chequered relationship to it. COVID-19 has not only underlined the significance of these actors in the claims-making process, but also just how vulnerable those working within ‘local ecosystems of support’ are to external shocks and their own internal pressures. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork with organisations providing support to benefit claimants and those financially struggling during COVID-19, this paper examines the increasingly situated nature of the claims-making process across four local areas in the UK. We do so to consider what bearing ‘local ecosystems of support’ have on income adequacy, access and universality across social security systems. Our analysis demonstrates how local state and third sector actors risk amplifying inequalities that at best disadvantage, and at worst altogether exclude, particular social groups from adequate (financial) assistance. Rather than conceiving of social security as a unitary collection of social transfers, we argue that its operation needs to be understood as much more fragmented and contingent. Practitioners exhibit considerable professional autonomy and moral agency in their discretionary practice, arbitrating between competing organisational priorities, local disinvestment, and changing community needs. Our findings offer broader lessons for understanding the contemporary governance of social security across welfare states seeking to responsibilise low-income households through the modernisation of public services, localism, and welfare reforms.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Journal or Publication Title: Social Policy & Administration
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0144-5596
Related URLs:
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Depositing User: L Scullion
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2022 09:19
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 16:46

Actions (login required)

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