Mind the gap: representations and lived realities of ‘welfare’ and welfare reform

Would you like to learn more about the realities of living on out-of-work benefits in Britain today? If so, then this event is for you

This event provides an opportunity to discuss the dominant representations of out-of-work benefit claimants by politicians, and in the popular media, and contrast these with the lived realities for individuals trying to ‘get by’ on benefits during a time of welfare reform.  It will consider the rise of programmes which promise to depict the ‘reality’ of being on benefits, such as Benefits Street, and explore how such programmes are impacting upon those who do rely on benefits for all, or most of their income.  Importantly, the event includes contributions from those with first hand experiences of being on benefits as well as from those researching these issues in both academic and voluntary sector settings.  It will be chaired by Patrick Butler, Social Policy Editor of The Guardian.

Participants will hear from members of the Dole Animators, a small group of out-of-work benefit claimants who made a short film about their experiences of welfare reform in 2013.  The group have remained active since the film was launched, and will outline their most recent experiences of welfare reform, as well as their thoughts on shows such as Benefits Street.  Lisa Pickard will present findings from the Real Life Reform study, a partnership of social housing providers which have been tracking the impacts of welfare reform on by repeatedly interviewing 100 social housing tenants since early 2013. Finally, Professor Tracy Shildrick (University of Leeds) will share her reflections of researching worklessness, poverty and ideas of ‘intergenerational worklessness’ for more than 15 years. 

This event is invite only, and will bring together senior decision makers and opinion formers from across Leeds to discuss and engage in debates around ‘welfare’, ‘worklessness’ and welfare reform in Britain today.  The event will be informal, and kept small to enable discussion and contributions from all.