The shape and scope of national, devolved and local welfare systems has profound impacts on people’s experiences of key social harms, including poverty, destitution, housing exclusion and homelessness. I-SPHERE has conducted a wide range of mixed-methods and international comparative research demonstrating these impacts. Since 2011, the Homelessness Monitors series has traced the links between welfare policy reform and economic change on homelessness across the four UK-nations. In a major five year research programme (2013-18), I-SPHERE in collaboration with five other universities, examined the effectiveness and ethical legitimacy of forms of welfare conditionality targeting a wide range of welfare recipients, leading the strands focusing on street homelessness, social housing and lone parents. I-SPHERE led the theoretical, conceptual, normative and international evidence-reviewing aspects of the research programme, culminating in the publication of a book in Routledge’s key ideas series on the topic of welfare conditionality. I-SPHERE also has expertise in comparing the impacts of different welfare systems, specifically in relation to housing exclusion and outcomes.

The table provides a summary of key recent research projects in this field.  For publications see our Publications section.

TitleAboutDatesFunderLead Researcher
The State of Hunger The landscape of food aid in the UK has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The State of Hunger will be an authoritative, sector-leading UK-wide annual benchmark study to answer the question of what is driving hunger in the UK and who it affects. The study will provide Trussell Trust with the evidence base it needs to create policy recommendations to end hunger in the UK. Crucially, it will provide much-needed detailed evidence on specifically which policies and factors are primary drivers of hunger. Furthermore, it will provide evidence from different areas of the UK regarding ‘what works’ in alleviating hunger, in terms of policies and other practical solutions. Further information2018-2021Trussel TrustFilip Sosenko
Social Policy in a Divided Britain Heriot Watt are involved in a partnership research programme for the Nuffield Foundation to provide an authoritative, independent and rigorous assessment of social policies and distributional outcomes in 21st century Britain. It will result in a comprehensive, systematic, detailed and cross-cutting analysis of public expenditure and social policy decisions across 10 major areas (social security and general housing; health; social care; early years; compulsory school age education; higher education; employment; safety and security; social mobility; and homelessness / complex needs) together with an in-depth quantitative evidence base on inequalities and social divides across five critical dimensions of life (living standards, health/care, education, employment and safety/security) by key characteristics (age, socio-economic group, ethnic, national and religious group, and area). Heriot Watt will lead on examining key policy developments impacting on people affected by homelessness and other acute and complex needs over the period 2015-2019.2018-2020The Nuffield FoundationSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Counting the Cost of PovertyThis research estimates the more tangible cost that poverty brings to society, specifically in the form of the cost to the public purse. It illustrates the magnitude of the cost of poverty in order to show the kinds of savings that a sustained reduction in poverty could bring. It also looks at some longer-term consequences of poverty to the Treasury, in terms of reduced revenues and increased benefit payments to people whose earnings potential will be damaged in the future by the experience of poverty today.Further information2016Joseph Rowntree FoundationGlen Bramley
Destitution in the UKDestitution in the UK established the first firm evidence base on the scale, causes and experiences of destitution in this country.
Further information

2015-2018Joseph Rowntree FoundationSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Review and Update of the Indices of Deprivation 2015This project involved updating the Housing Affordability Indicator for the review and update of indices of deprivation, England 2015. Further information2015Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local GovernmentGlen Bramley
Welfare Conditionality, sanctions, support and behaviour changeThe use of conditional welfare arrangements that combine elements of sanction and support is an established element within welfare, housing, criminal justice and immigration systems. This five year research project creates a collaborative, international and interdisciplinary focal point for social science research on welfare conditionality by exploring the efficacy and ethicality of conditionality across social policy fields and diverse groups of welfare service users.
Further information
On the back of this work Heriot Watt’s Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick also produced a book for the Routledge Key Ideas series.
2013-2018ESRCSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Homelessness MonitorThe Homelessness monitor is a longditudinal study commissioned by Crisis and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The monitor defines ‘core’ and ‘wider’ homelessness and measures the scale of these phenomena for England, Wales and Scotland, as well as forecasting future trends. It examines the impact of policy and legislation on homelessness across the UK.

Further information

2011-2021CrisisGlen Bramley and Suzanne Fitzpatrick