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York academic to study reality of EU welfare law

Posted on 27 November 2013

A lecturer at the University of York has been awarded a Future Research Leader grant by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to study the obstacles faced by welfare claimants either moving to or returning to the UK from the EU.

Dr Charlotte O’Brien, of the York Law School, will work with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau at Ripon on the pioneering two-and-a-half year project which will study the effectiveness of EU law in practice.


Dr Charlotte O’Brien with Linda Marsden (manager of Ripon CAB)

The ESRC Future Research Leaders scheme aims to ‘enable outstanding early-career social scientists’ to lead their own substantial projects, ‘to acquire the skills set to become the future world leaders in their field’.  

Dr O’Brien’s socio-legal project which starts in January will develop a new methodology to document the obstacles faced by welfare claimants moving to, or returning to the UK, from other EU Member States. 

In weekly sessions at Ripon CAB, Dr O’Brien, who is a trained specialist advisor, will act as a specialist caseworker seeing people who have EU law related welfare entitlements – EU migrants, UK nationals, and their families. 

“The system is not user friendly and can be difficult to navigate for people without detailed technical knowledge of the law, especially if they are non-nationals with little access to advice and support. They face big obstacles accessing their rights even when they are paying tax and national insurance. Those obstacles are even greater for migrants with disabilities. It’s a project that will focus on the difficulties the UK system creates for people at risk of social exclusion and exploitation,” she says.

“I’m also going to be helping UK nationals across the age ranges who have returned after living abroad. These will include pensioners who have spent a period of time abroad and who have then come back to the UK often for health reasons. People in this group may be experiencing difficulties getting their welfare rights sorted.”

Dr O’Brien will make detailed records of the problems that claimants encounter helping to build up a picture of how well EU law is realised in practice. 

The Manager of Ripon CAB, Linda Marsden, said: “These problems have a significant effect upon the lives of the clients affected. This project should have a positive impact, providing continuing benefit to both clients and advisors. It is entirely in accord with Ripon CAB’s commitment to social campaigning.”

Notes to editors:

  • For more information about the York Law School, please visit www.york.ac.uk/law
  • For more information about Ripon Citizens Advice Bureau, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/riponcab.htm
  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. www.esrc.ac.uk

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