Communicating Welfare Reform

Project outline

The following information provides brief details regarding a participatory animated documentary project looking at people’s experiences of – and attitudes towards – welfare reform in the UK. The project builds upon a small-scale qualitative research project exploring lived experiences of welfare reform, as part of doctoral research by Ruth Patrick.

The animated documentary has been funded via an Awards for All Grant from the National Lottery, and the project team are working in partnership with Gipton Supported Independent Living (GIPSIL). GIPSIL is a community-based organisation established in 1993 on the Gipton estate in East Leeds in response to the difficulties faced by young people in an area of deprivation. GIPSIL provides housing and support to 110 young people at risk, including the homeless, lone parents and young offenders in East Leeds, as well as a city-wide service for 60 care leavers.

Background and context

Between 2011 and 2013, fifteen out-of-work benefit claimants were interviewed three times as they experienced the direct consequences of various welfare reforms. Research participants included single parents being moved off Income Support and onto Jobseeker’s Allowance, disabled people being migrated from Incapacity Benefit and onto Employment and Support Allowance and young people facing a more stringent Jobcentre Plus / welfare-to-work regime. This research is ongoing, and the findings are currently being analysed with a view to disseminating emergent findings from Summer 2013.

Objectives of the project

During the course of the research, strong relationships were established between the researcher and the research participants, with many of the participants welcoming the opportunity to give ‘their side of the story’ as an alternative to the dominant Government rhetoric and narrative of ‘shirkers’ ‘sleeping off a life on benefits’ (Osborne, 2012). Research participants were kept involved in the research via research steering group meetings as well through a facebook group which was established to keep participants updated about developments and next steps.

In considering dissemination plans for the research, it was agreed that it is important to also develop outputs of direct meaning and relevance to the participants themselves. With this aim in mind, funding was sought and secured to develop an animated documentary film developed by the participants themselves. The goal is that this film will be an opportunity for the participants to consider and explore the main findings from the research project, as well as providing scope for them to develop team working skills in a small group setting.

How the film will be made

The animated documentary will be created through a process of collaborative film making, using design thinking and conventional documentary and animation techniques as a framework. Participants will have the opportunity to attend a series of workshops where they will direct the focus, content and visual style of the film. Subsequently, student animators will bring the stories and images alive whilst being closely instructed by the participants. In addition, some of the workshops will be designed to explore further lived experiences of welfare reform and develop the themes emerging from the previous research.

Dissemination and Impact

The project will run from March – November 2013, with the film expected to be launched in October and November 2013.

Once the film has been completed, it will be launched online with a dedicated website for the project and additional social media to connect with other communities of interest. In addition, a launch event will be organised which will provide an opportunity for the research participants to bring their film to both their local community as well as to important local policymakers and other stakeholders (including local media, politicians, council officials and so on). Press coverage will be sought for this event, and the film itself, and there will also be further consideration of how most effectively to disseminate the film. Importantly, the participants themselves will be involved in this dissemination and impact planning so that they have an input into both how the film is made and how it is launched.

Further information

If you would like any further information about this project, please get in touch with either of the project directors:

Ruth Patrick ( Tel: +44 (0) 1943 870117
Ellie Land ( Tel: +44 (0) 7791 958336

If you would like more information about the work of GIPSIL, please contact:

Paul Belbin ( Tel: +44 (0) 7712 779897