UCL Events


Lunch Hour Lecture | The crisis of British benefits policy: how we got here

03 October 2023, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

An image of a person handing out pasta at a food bank

In this lecture, Dr Tom O'Grady will describe findings from his book, The Transformation of British Welfare Policy.

This event is free.

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About the Lecture:

This lecture will describe findings from author's recent book, The Transformation of British Welfare Policy: Politics, Discourse and Public Opinion. It explains the political forces that have shaped the British benefits system and sets out a roadmap for reforming the system in the aftermath of Universal Credit. Since 2010, the UK has enacted radical welfare cuts and reforms that have led to greater poverty, homelessness, indebtedness, and foodbank use. The book traces this back to a long-term change in discourse from both politicians and the media since the 1980s. Previously perceived as deserving, recipients of welfare benefits came to be seen as scroungers, vilified by politicians, the media, and ultimately the public too. The book argues that the ways in which politicians and the media have talked about the benefits system have radically reshaped how the public thinks about it, and ultimately, benefits policy too.  This lecture will explain the research behind these claims, using the book's findings to set out a blueprint for welfare reform over the next decade that can command the confidence of voters whilst improving outcomes for the poorest and most vulnerable people in British society.  

About the Speaker

Tom O'Grady

Associate Professor of Political Science at UCL Department of Political Science

Tom O’Grady is an Associate Professor of Political Science at University College London. His research focuses on how politicians and the public think about, and talk about, the welfare system and redistribution. He combines traditional social science methodology with data science techniques, using computational techniques applied to ‘big data’ – large collections of public opinion responses, speeches and media articles – to show how discourse and public opinion evolve over long periods of time. He is the author of a book, The Transformation of British Welfare Policy: Politics, Discourse and Public Opinion, published by Oxford University Press in 2022, as well as articles in academic journals. His research and commentary have appeared across the media in outlets such as The Economist, The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Sun. His twitter handle is @DrTomD_OG.