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Social inequalities in the receipt of welfare benefits and the impact of mental and neurological disorders: a big data project

Start date

1st October 2024


1x ESRC Collaborative (CASE) PhD Studentship, either: 

  • +3 (PhD only) fully funded for 3 years, or up to 6 years part-time.
  • 1+3 (Master and PhD). The student is required to undertake one of the Master programmes listed here. The Master programme of choosing will be agreed with the supervisors.


We are looking for a PhD candidate who is interested to develop their skills and expertise in understanding and analysing complex, longitudinal administrative data related to welfare, mental health and disability. This fully funded PhD studentship is well suited to someone who is keen to work on research questions that can have a significant impact on welfare, public policy and service delivery affecting the lives of millions of people in the UK.

Considering that mental health problems are one of the main reasons for people to fall out of work and claim unemployment or disability benefits, it is important for us to understand patterns and trends in benefit receipt, particularly among more vulnerable groups of our society, including those with mental health problems or a disability. This PhD will explore how benefit receipt varies among groups of people, for example, people accessing mental health services, people from different racial and ethnic minority groups, people with caring responsibilities and those with a disability. The PhD will use two novel linked datasets that combine detailed benefits information derived from administrative records held by the Department for Work and Pensions with either electronic mental health record data from people accessing secondary mental health or socio-demographic and health data provided by people who took part in the 2011 Census.

The PhD will benefit from the close collaboration with Lambeth Council, a Borough in South London and they will provide a 13-week data-driven placement with their Skills and Employment team, access to internal local authority datasets and Lambeth’s wide network of stakeholders and partners across institutions to support the dissemination of findings and network building. Engagement with the policy and strategy context of the Council would also be central to the placement. Both Lambeth Council and people with lived experience of navigating the welfare and healthcare system have informed the aims of the PhD and their involvement will remain central over the course of the project. 

You will join a friendly, supportive and collegial environment with a large range of opportunities for involvement in various research projects, training and teaching opportunities.

Essential Criteria

  • BSc or MSc in relevant subject area (statistics, geography, epidemiology, data science, public health, psychology, econometrics with a specific focus on public health research or policy evaluation)
  • (Close to) Postgraduate level of skill in statistical analysis, using at least one of Stata or R, and able and willing to extend skills (e.g. to use SQL)
  • Able to write succinctly and with clarity
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Strong time and personal management skills and ability to work to deadlines
  • Good communication skills (spoken and written)
  • Excellent working knowledge of Excel, Word, PowerPoint

Desirable criteria

  • Experience of preparing large datasets for analysis from longitudinal surveys or routine healthcare settings
  • Experience working as a data analyst in a research environment
  • Competence in the analysis of longitudinal studies
  • To have published in peer-reviewed journals  

For more information on the data sources, anticipated methods and policy relevance see:


Dr Sharon Stevelink, Reader in Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London. Email: 

Dr Ioannis Bakolis, Reader in Public Mental Health and Statistics at the Institue of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London. Email: 

Entry requirements

Applicants should have (or be expected to obtain) a Bachelors degree with 2:1 honours (or Overseas equivalent). A 2:2 degree may be considered only where applicants also offer a Masters with Merit.

If applying for the +3 (PhD only) studentship, students should have a master’s degree in a relevant subject or can demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting. We welcome applicants from a wide range of disciplines including epidemiology, psychology, statistics, psychiatric research and social sciences.

Award types and eligibility

+3 (PhD only) fully funded for 3 years, or up to 6 years part-time, or 1+3 (Master and PhD). The student is required to undertake one of the Master programmes listed here. The Master programme of choosing will be agreed with the supervisors.

Please note that when applying for the +3 (PhD only) award, the applicant should have a MSc (level 7 modules) that covers at least three of the four major ESRC core research methods areas – social theory, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and research design. In some cases, we can consider professional experience. More details regarding these core research methods areas, see here.

The award will cover the student fees, provide a stipend and a small budget for training, consumables, conference attendance and other related PhD expenses.

If the successful candidate is required to undertake a Master programme, the fees for the Master programme will be covered. During this time, the student will also receive a stipend. 

Home students as well as international students are eligible to apply, but only a small number of fully funded PhD studentships are available for international students. More details on the definition of home students or international students can be found here.

Key regulations regarding the studentship and the full range of benefits attached to the award can be found here.

The stipend follows the UKRI stipend rate (£18,622 per annum in 2023/2024) plus London weighting of £2,000 per annum.

The successful student is expected to be based at the Department of Psychological Medicine on the King’s College London Denmark Hill campus for at least 2 days a week. During the secondment to the London Borough of Lambeth the student is expected to be based at Lambeth Civic Centre in Brixton, London, for at least 2 days a week.  You will also work closely with colleagues at the NIHR Maudsley BRC, members of the Centre for Society and Mental Health and the Department of Biostatistics & Health Informatics.

We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a PhD studentship at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from people from ethnic minority backgrounds as well as applications from those with experience of working in the welfare, charitable, and governmental sector.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in mental health, welfare and ‘big data’ and be motivated by research impact and translation of research into service and policy improvement.

Further information

About the IoPPN (

Studying at the IoPPN (

Research degrees at the IoPPN (link to

 Other relevant links and information: 

Case studentships

More information about the data linkage 

Lambeth Council

How to apply

Applicants must complete and submit an online admissions application, via the admissions portal by midnight (23:59 GMT) on 11th February 2024.

On the ‘Choosing a programme’ page, please select Department of Psychological Medicine MPhil/PhD (Full Time/Part Time).

More information on the department and the programme is available at the departmental prospectus page here

In your application, you will be asked to include:

  • Academic Transcripts – where applicable, academic transcripts must be submitted with the online admissions application
  • Details of your qualifications (you will need to attach copies)
  • Curriculum vitae, including details of previous employment (max. two pages)
  • A personal statement describing (i) what relevant existing skills, training and knowledge you would bring to the project; (ii) any ideas or proposals you have for developing/executing the specified project; (iii) what you hope to achieve from the PhD; and (iv) why you wish to apply for this particular PhD. Please include this as an attachment rather than using the text box (max. two pages).
  • Academic References – all admissions applications require one supporting reference. If the applicant is relying on his/her referees to submit a reference directly to the College after he/she has submitted his/her admissions application, then the applicant must ensure that 1) their chosen referee is made aware of the funding deadline (i.e. 7 days from application deadline) and 2) that the reference needs to be sent from an institutional email address.
  • Fill in the Diversity Monitoring Form – we do not need to see a copy of this form as part of your application 

In the Funding section, please tick box 5 and include the following reference SS-ESRC-PPM-24.

Please note there is no need to complete the Research Proposal section in your application as the project has already been set. 

If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact the Education Support Team at

References must be received by the deadline for the applicant to be eligible. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Closing date

11th February 2024, midnight (23:59 GMT)


Week beginning 26th February 2024.



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