Researchers look to improve social protection for vulnerable groups

19 February 2014

Researchers look to improve social protection for vulnerable groups

Professor Darinka Asenova

Citizens in Scotland facing disadvantage, poverty and marginalisation due to cuts in public funding are at the heart of a new GCU research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

A research team including Principal Investigator Professor Darinka Asenova, and Co-Investigators Dr John McKendrick and Claire McCann, all from the Glasgow School for Business and Society, will look at how austerity has affected the groups and individuals in Scotland most reliant upon public services, such as children, the elderly, poor and the disabled.

‘A redistribution of social and societal risk: the impact on individuals, their networks and communities’ will see researchers assess the effects of recent changes in the redistribution of social and societal risks to these groups.

The term ‘social risk’ was introduced by the World Bank as a part of its social protection strategy, which uses risk management principles – widely established in other fields such as finance, insurance and health and safety – within a social context to reduce economic vulnerability. Social risk is a new category of risks associated with the creation of further disadvantage, poverty and/or marginalisation of groups and individuals.

The project begins in February and ends in August 2014, having attracted £40,000 from social policy research and development charity JRF.

Professor Asenova said: “The research will address the distinct lack of evidence concerning the redistribution of societal risks down to the level of individual user. It will inform public debate, decision-making and practice.”

Professor Asenova said the budget cuts and other austerity measures have acted as a “transmission mechanism” of risk through the various layers of government: from UK to Scottish Government (SG), then from SG to local authorities and finally on to citizens and communities.

She said: “The project will address the second and third stages, focusing on how austerity impinges upon the way in which the distinctive polity within Scotland redistributes social risk and how mechanisms within that polity could be modified so as to mitigate risks faced by citizens and service users.”

The study will involve an analysis of policy, legislation and existing evidence in the UK and Scotland. The key themes from this literature-based analysis will then be used in a detailed study of a single local authority in Scotland in order to gain a greater depth of understanding of the impact of the re-distribution of risk at a local level.


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