The Transformation of British Welfare Policy: Politics, discourse and public opinion

If you would like to attend this event in person, please register with Eventbrite (use link to the web-page below). Places are limited due to our social distancing policy. Attendees are asked to: Take a lateral flow test on the morning of the event. If positive, stay at home Stay home if you feel unwell Wear a face covering one while moving around indoor spaces where possible, while seated, particularly during larger events Be considerate of other people’s space Wash your hands regularly with soap or sanitiser Use the official NHS QR code posters displayed throughout the College site. If you would to join online, please register with Zoom (See link to website below).

Since 2010 the UK has embarked on a series of radical welfare reforms that have led to greater poverty, homelessness, indebtedness, and foodbank use. It has diverged from other European countries experiencing similar economic and social trends, who have not enacted such dramatic cuts and reforms. Until recently, however, the changes proved very popular with the public, who increasingly hated the welfare system and viewed its users as lazy, undeserving and likely to be cheating.

Focusing on policies that provide relief from unemployment, poverty and disability, in this book Tom O’Grady uncovers why Britain’s welfare system has been reformed so radically and why, until recently, the public enthusiastically endorsed this programme. Using a comparative and historical perspective, he traces the evolution of British welfare policy, politics, discourse, and public opinion since the 1980s, arguing that from the 1990s a long-term change in discourse from both politicians and the media caused the British public to turn against welfare by 2010. That, combined with the financial crisis, left the system uniquely vulnerable to cuts. This book explores the roots of public opinion on the welfare system, the motives of politicians who have revolutionised it, and the ways in which the system and its users have been spoken about. It is an account of how the public came to consider deserving recipients of help as scroungers; of when and why politicians and the media vilified them; of political parties whose discourse and policies were transformed, almost overnight; and of Britain’s journey from providing welfare as generously as the average European country in the 1970s to becoming an outlier today.