Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, School of Social and Political Science, The University of Edinburgh
Beltane Fellow: 1 Jan 2014-30 June 2014
Jackie’s research (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) looks at how ‘incapacity for work’ was defined across the 20th century, starting with the UK’s first national insurance scheme in 1911. Using archive material relating to appeals against refusals of benefit, her research looks at who made the decisions, what evidence was used and how decisions reflected existing ideas about men and women in the workplace.
What interests Jackie most about these appeal papers is that they involved ordinary working people who probably had very little experience of dealing with paperwork or the law but somehow they made their way through this process to have their cases heard. Looking at these cases tells us that making decisions about who is fit for work and who is not, is a difficult task and has relevance for welfare reform today. Decisions are often unfair for people who are already struggling with health problems and the effects of poverty. Giving them the chance to appeal against wrong decisions is important but it is equally important that we make the right policies in the first place, recognising that ‘fitness for work’ is a socially constructed concept, depending on a range of social factors, including the availability of suitable jobs.
Jackie is an Honorary Beltane Fellow, and will use her time and contacts with the Beltane to connect with the policy makers and people who will benefit most from hearing these stories from our past.