Little and large: methodological reflections from two qualitative longitudinal policy studies on welfare conditionality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article brings together methodological insight from two policy-focused studies centrally concerned with understanding experiences of, and responses to, rapidly expanding welfare conditionality (that is, making claimants’ eligibility to social welfare rights dependent on engagement with mandatory behavioural responsibilities under threat of sanction for non-compliance), in the UK context. Qualitative longitudinal approaches are ideally suited to seeking a better understanding of the efficacy and consequences of welfare conditionality and enabling an exploration of how the policy assumptions underpinning this approach intersect with (and often contradict) lived experiences. In this article, we detail the approaches we have taken in employing qualitative longitudinal methodologies and explore the similarities and distinctive features of two policy studies with which the authors were involved (Patrick, 2017; WelCond, 2018). Drawing on data from our two studies, we highlight how a focus on time can deepen our understanding of policy changes and their impact on people’s past, present and future lives. We consider the difference in scale of the two studies and the respective possibilities and challenges in working with quite small and very large sample sizes, including the analytical challenge particular to qualitative longitudinal research. Further, we highlight the value of qualitative longitudinal methods for research that seeks to comprehend the varied effects of welfare conditionality on the lives and behaviour of social security benefit recipients over time. Finally, we reflect on the merits of qualitative longitudinal studies for social policy research more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLongitudinal and Life Course Studies
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Ingenta. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Welfare Conditionality

Cite this