Is austerity harming societal well-being? Evidence from the UK

by in NewsComments Off on Is austerity harming societal well-being? Evidence from the UK

A panel discussion at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2015, Glasgow Caledonian University, 15-17 April.

At a state banquet for the new Lord Mayor, David Cameron spoke of a new economic reality that necessitated ‘permanent austerity’. Much of the public debate surrounding the introduction of policies intended to reduce the UK’s public debt has focused on whether they will achieve this economic aim. Yet, cuts to public services and the welfare state are not merely matters of balancing the books. The human dimension of austerity continues to be an understudied area in sociology. While economic data is published quarterly, social scientists are only now beginning to be able to document the social and health-related consequences of austerity.

This panel, organised by Rachel Loopstra and Aaron Reeves from the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford, brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from sociology, public health, and social policy whose work addresses these human dimensions of austerity politics. Each of the speakers will evaluate the effects of specific aspects of austerity measures enacted in the UK on different health and well-being outcomes, including, 1) the consequences of increasing the minimum wage for health behaviours and mental health; 2) the impact of decentralization of the social fund for food insecurity; 3) the impact of sanctions for Jobseekers on poverty and employment outcomes; and 4) the effects of Working Capability Assessments on mental health. Collectively, this panel documents regressive trends in societal well-being associated with austerity, findings that are particularly troubling in light of the UK outlook of ‘permanent austerity’.

Rebecca O’Connell is a contributor to the panel. She will describe the methodology and some early insights from the cross-national, mixed-methods research project, Families and Food in Hard Times.

Share this article