Living on a knife edge: The responses of people with physical health conditions to changes in disability benefits
This article documents the experiences of people with a physical health condition or disability who have experienced a loss of or change in disability benefits under the welfare reform programme in the United Kingdom. A theoretical model was constructed using in-depth interviews and grounded theory methods. The findings show that participants experienced the benefits system as dehumanising, and felt that they lived in a judgemental and invalidating society, where they were perceived as ‘scroungers’ and faced discrimination from others. These experiences negatively affected their mental and physical health and well-being. They also negatively affected participants’ identity, leading to experiences of shame, hopelessness and social isolation. However, many participants attempted to resist these negative impacts (e.g. through seeking support or taking political action). The findings demonstrate the significant impact of benefit changes on well-being and identity, thus highlighting important implications for claimants, and staff in healthcare, the benefits system and government.