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Research project examining who ‘deserves’ welfare services receives funding

16 December 2019

A new project exploring how organisations determine which migrants are, and which are not, considered deserving of welfare services has received funding by NordForsk, a consortium comprised of UK and Scandinavian Research Councils.

Syrian refugees. Image via Flickr (Public domain)

The UCL Institute of Education (IOE) project, led by Dr Mette Louise Berg, will examine how it is decided who ‘deserves’ welfare services and what the implications are in a context of increasing diversity driven by migration, welfare restructuring, and austerity. 

The project will break new ground by exploring how solidarities are imagined and practiced in negotiations of migrant deservingness. Such negotiations can draw boundaries between those migrants who have access to the support and services of the welfare state, or are believed to have access, and those who are excluded, e.g. because they are deemed as ‘not belonging’ or are seen as responsible for their own neediness.

The three-year qualitative project will look at these factors across six case-studies in the UK, Sweden, and Denmark. Setting out from the understanding that solidarities are imagined and practiced in diverse ways, the project will explore emerging forms of conviviality, friction, and contestation. It will aim for a deep and nuanced understanding of how deservingness is given social texture, and how different forms of solidarities are practiced, in encounters between migrants, frontline workers, and a wide range of civil society actors who offer and provide support for recent migrants.

The researchers will explore how deservingness is constituted according to migrants’ generational status e.g., as children, working-age adults, or elders; and according to spatial dimensions of the neighbourhood where migrants settle e.g., in private, public, or social housing; in major cities or in rural areas; together with, or apart from, majority populations.

Dr Berg will be joined by a team comprising the IOE’s Dr Rachel Rosen, Professor Anders Neergaard (Linkoping, Sweden) and Professor Mikkel Rytter (Aarhus, Denmark). The project is due to start in March 2020.

‘Migrants and Solidarities: Negotiating Deservingness in Welfare Micropublics’ was one of seven projects that received funding from NordForsk following a competitive call.

The panel which assessed the research project found the project proposal outstanding and noted it promises to contribute beyond the state-of-the-art in contemporary migration research. They also found it has unique potentials to make significant contributions to welfare and migration regimes in the Nordic countries and the UK.

The full list of projects awarded funding by NordForsk are:

  • Relational Well-being in the Lives of Refugee Young People in Finland, Norway and the UK. Project leader: Ravi KS Kohli, University of Bedfordshire (UK)
  • Migrants and Solidarities: Negotiating Deservingness in Welfare Micropublics. Project leader: Mette Louise Berg, UCL Institute of Education (UK)
  • Making it Home: An Aesthetic Methodological Contribution to the Study of Migrant Home-Making and Politics of Integration. Project leader: Fran Lloyd, Kingston University (UK)
  • Teaching that Matters for Migrant Students: Understanding Levers of Integration in Scotland, Finland and Sweden. Project leader: Nataša Pantić, University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Life at the Frontier: The Impact of Social Frontiers on the Social Mobility and Integration of Migrants. Project leader: Gwilym Pryce, University of Sheffield (UK)
  • Structural, Cultural and Social Integration among Youth: A Multidimensional Comparative Project. Project leader: Carina Mood, Stockholm University (Sweden)
  • Effects of Externalisation: EU Migration Management in Africa and the Middle East. Project leader: Are John Knudsen, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) (Norway)

Dr Berg said: “In a time of welfare restructuring and cuts and increasing migration-driven diversity, questions of deservingness to welfare services have become key points of contention. We see new forms of exclusion as well as of solidarities emerging. 

"We are delighted to have received funding for this project from NordForsk. It will enable us to research fundamental questions of solidarities and deservingness across the UK, Denmark, and Sweden. As well as breaking new ground in scholarship, we also look forward to working with a range of civil society stakeholders and policymakers to improve our understanding, and to generate recommendations for practice.” 

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