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No longer deserving? sickness benefit reform and the politics of (ill) health

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Clare BambraORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2010.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Income maintenance during unemployment, old age or long-term sickness is a key facet of welfare provision and an important mediatory factor in the relationship between socio-economic position and health status. Since October 2008, the main long-term sickness absence benefit in the UK (Incapacity Benefit) has been replaced by Employment Support Allowance. Despite the importance of income maintenance for health and health inequalities, this change has been largely ignored within public health circles. After outlining these reforms and providing a historical policy context, this article utilises welfare reform theory and empirical literature to argue that these changes represent a broader international transformation from welfare to workfare states, the re-emergence of labour discipline, and a political shift in how people suffering from ill health are categorised as disabled or not and perceived as 'deserving' or 'undeserving' of state support. Finally, the case is made for the need to develop a new critical public health research and practice agenda around worklessness.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bambra C, Smith K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Public Health

Year: 2010

Volume: 20

Issue: 1

Pages: 71-83

Print publication date: 01/01/2010

Online publication date: 29/03/2010

Date deposited: 04/02/2017

ISSN (print): 0958-1596

ISSN (electronic): 1469-3682

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09581590902763265


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