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In/validating disability: changing labour markets and out of work disability benefits

Morris, Rosa Kate Sullivan (2018) In/validating disability: changing labour markets and out of work disability benefits. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis is concerned with the relationship between the political economy and UK governments’ approaches since the 1970s to out-of-work disability benefits. It uses a historical materialist analysis of both the current mode of production and the social model of disability to understand how and why there is a disconnect between government approaches to disability and disabled people’s lived experiences. The concept of a ‘validating device’ – the mechanism used to determine who is exempt, on the grounds of disability, from having to seek employment - is utilised to analyse changes in out-of-work disability benefits and the accompanying assessments. The thesis pulls together four different areas of study which are key to understanding why the disconnect has occurred. The first area of research and analysis relates to the position and importance of the administrative category of disability to the functioning of capitalism, arguing that it is impossible to fully understand the current position of disabled people who are unable to engage in waged labour without considering their role and position in the capitalist mode of production. The second area is strongly linked to the first and concerns the history and current situation of out-of-work disability benefits in the UK, making links with what is known about changes in the labour market. The third area uses documentary analysis to chart the development of the conceptual framework underpinning the current validating device, the Work Capability Assessment, showing how a system was created which treats disabled people’s experiences as contentious. The fourth area directly relates to disabled people’s experiences of the assessment process. Data from focus groups, interviews and online surveys explores both how people experience the assessment and the nature of the relationship that is created by the validating device. The thesis concludes that changes in the determination of who is eligible for out-of-work benefits have been driven primarily by developments in the political economy rather than by individual capacity or need; and that it is there is a consequent disconnect between current policy approaches to disability and disabled people’s lived experiences. It argues that neither previous developments nor the current situation can be understood without a wider analysis which places disabled people’s experiences in the context of past and current developments of the capitalist mode of production.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Disability; Disabled people; work; welfare; Work capability assessment; WCA; Assessments; capitalism; labour market; social model;
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.755126
Depositing User: Ms Rosa K S Morris
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 09:56
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21504

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