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We have staff working on many different topics, and we wanted to give you a chance to find out more about one of them. Ruth Patrick specialises in the impact of social policy on lived experiences of poverty.

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My background

I studied for my undergraduate degree in Social Policy in my mid-20s, having previously worked in various jobs, including bar and café work, and for a think tank called the Fabian Society.

Once I’d started studying, I found it hard to stop. I studied for my PhD, taking a year's break from it to work for Shelter. I worked for them in prisons, supporting offenders with their housing needs.

After spending a couple of years at the University of Liverpool, I joined Social Policy and Social Work here at York in 2018.

Experiences of poverty

My research looks at poverty and the benefits system, and the ways in which the everyday experiences for those on benefits can contrast dramatically with public perceptions. Television programmes such as Benefits Street and Skint portray a highly edited picture of life for people in receipt of benefits. I believe it is really important to ensure we document what life on benefits is really like, especially for people who have been so negatively affected by wave after wave of welfare reform - most recently the introduction of Universal Credit.

I feel fortunate to be working with people with direct experiences of poverty as part of the Poverty2Solutions. Their aim is to influence policy making, and ensure it accurately reflects the experiences of those on benefits. They are fantastic to work with, and were named one of the 100 Changemakers by the Big Issue for 2020.

Research projects

Recently, I've been working on two projects. One is looking at how Covid-19 affects families on a low income. The other is looking at the particular challenges faced by larger families in poverty, such as the impact of two recent benefit changes: the two-child limit (which restricts some child-related benefits to the first two children in a household), and the benefits cap (which caps the amount of money which can be received in benefits by households with no one in work).

For these, I've worked in partnership with a fantastic charity, Child Poverty Action Group, and researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Listening and engagement

In order to carry out research, I work in partnership with people in poverty. I often use arts-based methods in my work - working with illustrators, designers and filmmakers to document and share people’s experiences in an engaging way. Using these methods, we made an animated film looking at experiences of welfare reform. More recently, I’ve worked with a group of Universal Credit claimants to create a leaflet, setting out their journey of benefits, and recommendations for change. 

I always try to engage policymakers and decision makers - I want to research poverty, but also to help reduce (and even prevent) it, and to generate better policy making in the future. This can involve speaking at events at the House of Commons or House of Lords, and ensuring that people with experiences of poverty have the chance to speak at these same events, with their expertise valued and recognised.

Social Policy and Social Work at York

I teach on a range of modules, including Poverty and welfare: rhetoric, realities & resistanceSocial Research Methods and Communities, Advocacy and Social Change. My new module looks at welfare over time: how it is depicted in the media and by politicians, and how this depiction contrasts with everyday realities. For this, we aim to do lots of exciting activities, including a ‘welfare walk’ and field trips, for example, to a local foodbank.

Choosing where to go to university is a big decision, and it’s about finding a place that fits with you. We're a really friendly and exciting place to be. You’ll be surrounded by a bright and engaged group of students, who support one another and want to learn. There’s always lots going on. We're lucky to have lots of amazing, engaging and socially significant research being done, which you can learn about directly from the people doing it.

Contact us

For any support or guidance on completing your journey to York, we're always close at hand.
+44 (0)1904 324000