Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security

Edmiston, Daniel, Robertshaw, David, Young, David, Ingold, Jo, Gibbons, Andrea, Summers, Kate, Scullion, Lisa, Geiger, Ben Baumberg, de Vries, Robert (2022) Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security. Social Policy & Administration, . ISSN 0144-5596. E-ISSN 1467-9515. (doi:10.1111/spol.12803) (KAR id:93131)


Local state and third sector actors routinely provide support to help people navigate their right to social security and mediate their chequered relationship to it. COVID-19 has not only underlined the significance of these actors in the claims-making process, but also just how vulnerable those working within ‘local ecosystems of support’ are to external shocks and their own internal pressures. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork with organisations providing support to

benefit claimants and those financially struggling during COVID-19, this paper examines the increasingly situated nature of the claims-making process across four local areas in the United Kingdom. We do so to consider what bearing ‘local ecosystems of support’ have on income adequacy, access and universality across social security systems. Our analysis demonstrates how local state and third sector actors risk amplifying inequalities that at best disadvantage, and at

worst altogether exclude, particular social groups from adequate (financial) assistance. Rather than conceiving of social security as a unitary collection of social transfers, we argue that its operation needs to be understood as much more fragmented and contingent. Practitioners exhibit considerable professional autonomy and moral agency in their discretionary practice, arbitrating between competing organisational priorities, local disinvestment, and changing community needs. Our findings offer broader lessons for understanding the contemporary governance of social security across welfare states seeking to responsibilise low income households through the modernisation of public services, localism, and welfare reforms.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/spol.12803
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author(s) has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising
Uncontrolled keywords: COVID-19, discretion, localisation, social security, welfare reform
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
J Political Science > JF Political institutions and public administration
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Robert De Vries
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2022 09:30 UTC
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2024 11:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.