A constant threat? A narrative exploration of the relationship between benefit receipt, mental distress and the threat of homelessness

DANIEL SAGE, Uisce Jordan

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Abstract

Resistance to housing and welfare reforms on economic, ‘practical’ grounds was shattered by the covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrated that where there is a will there is a way when it comes to providing housing. Despite a purported ‘right’ to adequate housing, many people in the UK face profound challenges accessing stable accommodation. Drawing from a biographical-narrative study, this article details experiences of men who have the right to adequate housing denied and thus experience housing insecurity. Subsequently, it explores how such insecurity exacerbates pre-existing mental health problems. The core argument of the article is that welfare reforms produced the sense of a constant threat of homelessness and destitution for the 17 male participants in the study who claimed sickness benefits. This sense of constant threat manifested itself through (a) the production of present homelessness at the time of the research and (b) and underlying anxiety, fear and threat of homelessness. The article contends that the UK social security system perpetuates the structural and emotional drivers of mental distress, creating a deleterious cycle of poverty, insecurity and ill-health, concluding that the provision of stable housing is an upstream intervention to improve mental health and reduce social exclusion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Social Policy
Early online date13 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • benefits
  • social security
  • mental health
  • insecure housing
  • homelessness

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