Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Nancy Neiman Auerbach

Reader 2

Thomas Kim

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© 2016 Emily C. Shon


Conditionality has always been a feature of welfare benefit entitlements in the United Kingdom – however, over time, the extent to which conditionality has been exercised in order to change behaviour has drastically increased through the severity of sanctions. Universal Credit, the most recently enacted welfare programme in the UK, has strengthened conditionality even further through even more ambitious expectations, as well as stricter regulations and punishments.

The mission of UC is to tackle worklessness, welfare dependency, and poverty by decreasing unemployment and thus, the number of people on benefits. Although UC may have been successful in addressing the first two issues, it is important to recognise that as a welfare policy and a response to poverty, UC is supposed to protect and benefit the wellbeing of people. My findings contradict this idea – UC has failed to address poverty in many ways, by defining poverty through a narrow and solely quantitative lens, by focusing on incentivising employment amongst benefit claimants as a solution to poverty, and by insufficiently accommodating for the needs of marginalised groups. Even so, conditional welfare policies have become the norm, a tool of many Conservative leaders in the United Kingdom. This is where the social policy focus has shifted. My thesis found that while UC and conditional welfare policies may achieve their stated goals of reducing unemployment and the number of benefit claimants, they do not adequately address the issue of poverty, as they ignore structural causes of poverty and disadvantage amongst marginalised communities.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.