Welfare Experiences. New ERC project with CSS researcher

17 February, 2023

The new ERC Consolidator Grant project, WelfareExperiences will analyse how different welfare systems can affect people's mental health and chances of returning to work – not just through the amount of money they get, but through the wider experience of claiming. Professor Ben Baumberg Geiger, from King’s College London, will be leading a study that compares ‘claimant experiences’ across countries, looks at the impacts of these experiences on mental health and work, and how policies influence these experiences.

The project will achieve a paradigm shift in comparative social protection research which previously has focused almost exclusively on income or work ignoring broader, crucially important claimant experiences. Some systems may provide dignity, a sense of security, and feel fair; others may leave people stigmatised, insecure, and feeling unjustly treated. These experiences are both important in themselves, and key to understand the impact of social protection on health and work. The project will study experiences across five welfare regimes (Norway, UK, Spain, Hungary, and Estonia). It aims to create a new framework for understanding ‘claimant experiences’ and conduct comparisons of these experiences across countries. The project will also test new theories on how policies influence experiences and investigate the impact of these experiences on health and work.

Dorottya Szikra, Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences, senior country lead on Hungary in the research says: “This research is truly pathbreaking in welfare state analysis. Most comparative research so far has focused on welfare states from a macro perspective like spending, policy structures or attitudes to deservingness. This collaborative ERC project shifts the focus to the micro-level and scrutinises the personal experiences of benefit claimants. Focusing on lived experiences of beneficiaries, including the feelings they have when meeting street-level bureaucracy, is something that a critical policy analyst like myself would charish. The methodological innovations of this project will, furthermore, feed into broader social science scholarship.”

More information on the project