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Shrinking the welfare state: the structure, geography and impact of British government benefit cuts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-503
Number of pages14
JournalInstitute of British Geographers. Transactions
Issue number4
Published1 Oct 2014

King's Authors


Welfare spending is currently a key element of government expenditure in western countries and it has grown considerably since the Second World War. But there have been calls for cuts in spending that have intensified since the onset of the financial crisis and the stress on austerity. This has been associated with a shift in the nature of welfare policy to what has been termed ‘workfare’, where benefits are increasingly means tested, time limited or financially capped and contingent on recipients seeking work. This shift has been seen in Britain since 1997 but has intensified since the election of the coalition government, who have instigated the most radical reshaping of welfare policy since 1945. The paper argues that geographers should pay more attention to the geography of welfare spending. The paper examines the structure of welfare spending in Britain and its geography, the nature and rationale for the welfare reforms and cuts, especially the stress on ‘fairness’, and the social and geographical impact of the benefit cap. It argues that the cuts point to a re-orientation of the welfare state and pose political problems for the Opposition, given the shift in social attitudes to welfare.

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