Living in the system: navigating 'welfare' as a 'mum on benefits'

This project grew out of discussions between members of the group about their experiences of JobCentre Plus services. We wanted to find out more about other mothers’ views and the views of the service providers, to try and understand the policies behind what people experience. We want to know: are the services offered by JobCentre Plus working for people? If not, what could be done differently?

Taking part in peer research has been a huge learning curve. My main reason for taking part was giving myself and others in similar circumstances a voice. Unemployed mothers in Lambeth. We are research subjects; it’s not often that we are also the researchers.

We decided to answer these questions by carrying out peer research. This is participatory research which is planned and carried out with and by the people affected by an issue rather than ‘on’ them by ‘experts’.

Project participants worked with a facilitator to choose questions they wanted to research. They received training in interviewing and other interactive data-gathering methods and carried out interviews with other mothers in the area. We used the citizens' jury model to explore current policy: ‘expert’ witnesses provided information about the issues we were investigating and respond to the questions and analysis of a wide group of mothers from the area. Through this process we brought the knowledge of mothers, service providers and policy makers together, in productive exchange that built a clear picture of the issues and challenges.

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lottery funded london community foundation comic relief cooperative foundation healthy planet walcot foundation Santander Foundation