AUDIO: Thinking Allowed ~ Sickness benefit claimants and their fear of the ‘brown envelope’ (BBC Radio 4)

Thinking Allowed

28 minutes
First broadcast:

 Wednesday 03 October 201

Laurie Taylor hears about a new study into the views and experiences of the long term sick and disabled in the context of ongoing welfare reforms.

The researcher, Kayleigh Garthwaite, highlights their ambivalence – whilst some have a deep seated anxiety about losing rights and income; others hope it will distinguish between the genuinely ill, such as themselves, and those that are ‘faking’.

Also, the former social science magazine ‘New Society’ broke new and radical grounds in its creation of a space for thoughtful debate about everyday culture and social issues; showcasing the ideas of academics and intellectuals as diverse as Angela Carter and Richard Hoggart.

A former editor, Paul Barker, analyses the heyday and legacy of ‘New Society’ 50 years after its launch. He’s joined by the writer, Lynsey Hanley and the Professor of Cultural Studies, Fred Inglis.

Producer: Jayne Egerton

Kayleigh Garthwaite

Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography, Durham University 

Paper: Fear of the brown envelope: sickness benefits recipients and welfare reform” 

Kayleigh Garthwaite

Fear of the brown envelope: sickness benefits recipients and welfare reform.

Hardly a day goes by without sick and disabled people being discussed in the media, 
painting a picture of lazy, faking, workshy scroungers; yet it is very rare that the voices of sick and disabled people involved in the welfare reform process are heard.

This paper draws on long term sickness benefits recipients’ perspectives and experiences of the welfare reform process. The research reveals a dichotomy of responses – firstly, a deep seated fear of reform and what it could mean for participants in the study, and secondly, a belief that reform is a positive shift that will not affect them as they are, in fact, genuinely ill.

This narrative is situated alongside a wider one that encompasses ‘Other’ sickness benefits recipients as scroungers. The relationship between identity and welfare reform for participants will be outlined, before a final reflection upon the future of welfare reform and what this could mean for sickness benefits recipients in terms of policy implications.

Lastly, this paper highlights how fears over welfare reform can evoke extreme anxiety and apprehension, but above all, how this fear, coupled with government, media and public perceptions, appears to be creating a worrying undercurrent amongst sickness benefits recipients themselves that perceives other sick and disabled people as ‘undeserving’.

Given at the Hardest Hit: Disability research and welfare reform symposium organized by the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds on September 20th

Find out more about Kayleigh Garthwaite

  • Paul Barker

    Former editor of New Society, writer and broadcaster, and senior research fellow at the Young Foundation 

    The Other Britain 
    Publisher: Routledge and Kegan Paul 
    ISBN 0-7100-9340-3

    Find out more about Paul Barker

BBC Radio 4


3 thoughts on “AUDIO: Thinking Allowed ~ Sickness benefit claimants and their fear of the ‘brown envelope’ (BBC Radio 4)

  1. Paul Davidson says:

    hi all Ifinally got my Brown Envelope on Saturday, I’m still waiting for their Murderous phone call. I almostdied on Saturday and day’s that followed. I’m in terror like many others. if only they would kill me more Humainly. and not leave it to me and others to pick up the mess.

    What a pick me up tonicfor the Bankers/Investers kill us all off and live off the proceed’s.

  2. jeffery davies says:

    this way please step forward come on its only into this room please be quick atos dwp but who stops your benefit atos zero points as you been touched by the hands of a dog jeff3

  3. kasbah says:

    I’ve been living in dread of the brown envelope for so long that I finally rang the ESA “helpline” lol.

    They hadn’t even BOTHERED to send me a letter to say that my “reconsideration” had failed and that they had sent all the material to the Appeal office (which is what I had originally requested). They beggar belief and it was all I could do to not yell abuse down the phone.

    I am incandesent with rage.

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