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The “cumulative impact” problem in social welfare: Some legal, policy and theoretical solutions

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Jan 2022
DateE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jan 2022
DatePublished (current) - 1 Mar 2022
Issue number1
Number of pages22
Early online date31/01/22
Original languageEnglish


Notwithstanding its central place in social security policy-making and in the
experiences of those on the receiving end of welfare reforms, cumulative
impact is an under interrogated and theorised problem in social welfare
scholarship. This paper seeks to address this in two ways. First, it draws on
the lessons of the comparatively well-developed literature on cumulative
impact in environmental studies to: (i) identify different dimensions of
cumulative impact and (ii) best practices in undertaking cumulative impact
assessments. Second, it argues that having regard to cumulative impact is
not just good policy-making, but is also a legal obligation. To discharge the
“Public Sector Equality Duty” under s.149 Equality Act 2010, a public
authority needs to have due regard to clear cumulative impacts between
measures. In the context of social security policy-making, a failure to
undertake enquiries to establish cumulative impacts between polices is
likely to breach the PSED. Drawing on examples from the UK
Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work
Act 2016 throughout, the paper makes the case for both the importance of
addressing cumulative impact in policymaking, and the need for greater
interrogation by social welfare scholarship.

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s)

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