Responses of People With Physical Health Conditions to Changes in Disability Benefits: A Grounded Theory Study
There is a dearth of literature on the experiences of people with physical health conditions who make disability benefit claims and live as a benefit claimant, particularly since the recent and ongoing changes to the benefits system in the UK. This research aimed to explore the social processes that impact on people with a physical health condition who have experienced a loss of or change in disability benefits, particularly in relation to their identity and their relationships with society. In-depth interviews were conducted with fifteen people with physical health conditions or disabilities. Data was analysed using Grounded Theory methods and a theoretical model was co-constructed. Participants experienced the benefits system as dehumanising, and felt that they lived in a judgemental society, where they were perceived as ‘scroungers’ and faced discrimination from others. These experiences negatively affected their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Participants often internalised the stigma surrounding disability benefit claimants and they attempted to resist this in order to maintain a preferred sense of self. The findings demonstrate the significant impact of benefit changes on wellbeing and identity. The research highlights important implications for Psychologists, as well as staff in healthcare, the benefits system, and government.