Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Abuse or Underuse? Polish Migrants' Narratives of (Not) Claiming Social Benefits in the UK in Times of Brexit

Abstract

The use of welfare support by EU migrants has dominated media coverage and political debates about EU migration in the UK for several years, regularly featuring claims about the negative effects of the presence of EU migrants on the UK social security system. Such claims became particularly prominent in 2013-2015, during the UK government's campaign to limit EU migrants' access to UK welfare benefits and in debates prior to the Brexit referendum. This article sheds light on how Polish migrants position themselves concerning the claiming of welfare benefits in the UK and how this affects their welfare strategies. The article is based on 14 qualitative interviews conducted in Liverpool 18 months after the Brexit referendum. Using stigma and benefits stigma as an overall theoretical framework, we find that the informants, in their positioning narratives, 1) put forward similar stigmatising expressions and stereotypes regarding the use of welfare as those featured by politicians and the media, which points to perceived abuse; 2) make a distinction between in-work and out-of-work benefits, the first being more acceptable than the second; 3) prefer living on savings or accepting `any job' over making use of out-of-work benefits, which points to an underuse and/or to possible processes of marginalisation; and 4), a tendency among those who have experience with claiming out-of-work benefits to question the discourses of welfare abuse. Finally, `working' and `contributing' to the system as opposed to relying on welfare support is perceived as a precondition to staying in the UK after Brexit - welfare and work are seen to signal very high stakes indeed.

You might also be interested in :

Going Back, Staying Put, Moving On: Brexit and the Future Imaginaries of Central and Eastern European Young People in Britain
This paper explores the ways in which young people aged 12 to 18 who were born in Central and Eastern European EU countries but now live in the United Kingdom construct their future imaginaries in the context of Brexit. It reports on findings from a large-scale survey…
Talking about Bordering
In the summer of 2019 as the UK was in the midst of heated Brexit debates and Theresa May's minority government clung on to power, Professor Louise Ryan interviewed Professor Nira Yuval-Davis about her recent book Bordering (Yuval-Davis, Wemyss and Cassidy 2019).
The Emotional Geographies of Migration and Brexit: Tales of Unbelonging
This article focuses on the emotionality of belonging among European Union (EU) citizens in the context of the United Kingdom's (UK) 2016 referendum and its result in favour of the UK leaving the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit. Drawing from testimonies of EU27 citizens in the UK…
The Impact of Brexit on Young Poles and Lithuanians in the UK: Reinforced Temporariness of Migration Decisions
The main aim of this paper is to assess the extent to which the 2016 Brexit referendum impacted on the decisions of young Polish and Lithuanian migrants to stay in the UK or return to the country of origin.

Journal

Central and Eastern European Migration Review

Authors

Gunhild Odden (Norway)
Kathy Burrell (United Kingdom)

Article meta

Country / region covered

Population studied

Year of Publication

Source type

Keywords