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Poverty and welfare: rhetoric, realities & resistance - SPY00057H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Ruth Patrick
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This module explores past, present and future representations of welfare. After locating welfare reform in a historical context (the ‘golden age’ of welfare), students will explore the impacts of more recent welfare reform. This will include the effects of welfare reform on particular aspects of difference, i.e. the relationship between welfare reform and disability, as well as public attitudes to the impacts of austerity, i.e. the politics of foodbank use. With an understanding of past and present representations of welfare, students will then engage more meaningfully with what future welfare provision might look like. Questions surrounding how we can (re)imagine the welfare state and help foster counter-narratives of welfare provision in wider public debates will be focused upon.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims


  • To develop an understanding of recent changes to social security policy, and their impact

  • To critically engage with the theoretical and rhetorical defences given for the withdrawal and reduction of social security support

  • To explore the reach, nature and functions of stigma in relation to poverty and social security

  • To provide opportunities for learners to engage directly with emerging evidence on the lived experiences of poverty and social security receipt, and so develop social research skills and understanding

  • To create spaces to consider our own role in processes of resistance and/or the reproduction of dominant narratives on ‘welfare’.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  • Reflect upon the extent to which policy defences for welfare reform correspond or depart from everyday experiences of their impact

  • Assess how welfare reform relates to aspects os difference - i.e. disability, ethnicity

  • Apply concepts to better understand the operation of state welfare over time.

  • Evaluate contemporary debates on welfare policy and state intervention.



Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

There are two assessments to this module as outlined below:

Assessment One (40%) – the module will embrace creative and innovative methods to develop student’s engagement with core learning outcomes. Students will be required to undertake group presentations where they present a page from a zine they have created as part of the module. This will be accompanied by a 1000 word critical commentary of the key themes to emerge from the development of the zine. Zines are creative, Do-It-Yourself, publications, which might include stories, photographs, collages, artworks, drawings, bits of writing and documents.

Assessment Two (60%) - a written assignment of 3000 words. Assignment topics will encourage a multi-disciplinary engagement with welfare, and will draw upon insight from sociological theory, history as well as social policy.



Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Bassel, L. and Emejulu, A. (2018) Minority women and austerity: survival and resistance in France and Britain. Bristol: Policy Press.

Cooper, V. and White, D. (eds) (2017) The violence of austerity. London: Pluto Press.

Patrick, R. (2007) For whose benefit? The Everyday Realities of Welfare Reform

Renwick, C. (2017) Bread for All: the origins of the welfare state. London: Allen Lane.

Jensen T, Tyler I. (2015) ‘Benefits broods’: The cultural and political crafting of anti-welfare commonsense. Critical Social Policy. 35(4):470-491.

Welshman, J. (2013) Underclass: a history of the excluded since 1880. London: Bloomsbury.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.