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31 January 2023

€3 million awarded to analyse how it feels to claim benefits in different countries

A major new research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) will analyse how different welfare systems can affect people's mental health and chances of returning to work – not just through the amount of money they get, but through the wider experience of claiming.

Welfare cartoon

Having been awarded a €3 million ERC grant, Professor Ben Baumberg Geiger, from the Centre for Society & Mental Health and the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, will be leading a study that compares ‘claimant experiences’ across countries, looks at the impacts of these experiences on mental health and work, and how policies influence these experiences.

To date, most research has looked at whether these systems reduce poverty and encourage people to work. These are important, but from speaking to claimants, we know that other things matter too – whether benefits provide dignity, security and feel fair; or whether people feel stigmatised, insecure, and unjustly treated.

Professor Geiger

The overall aim of the five-year project – known as ‘WelfareExperiences’ – is to help advance academic knowledge and contribute to making claimant experiences better. To do this, the project will collect innovative, in-depth qualitative data and conduct new surveys of claimants in Estonia, Hungary, Norway, Spain and the UK.

By analysing benefits in five countries, the research team will be able to look at how claimant experiences are affected by everything from particular interactions (e.g. particular conversations or messages as part of their claim) to broad, country-wide factors (e.g. wider levels of trust that people have in different systems).

The project will be done in collaboration with claimants themselves and is a collaboration between King’s College London and seven other research organisations: the University of Kent (UK), Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway), Tallinn University (Estonia), Praxis (Estonia), Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and the Center for Social Sciences (Hungary).

It also involves collaboration with seven organisations that work with people who have lived experience of claiming: EPIK (Estonia), EAPN Spain, MEOSZ (Hungary), Velferdsalliansen EAPN Norway , APLE Collective (Thrive Teeside and Start Point)(UK), Inclusion Scotland, and Poverty Alliance.

The grant is a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant, which is part of the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme. It aims to support scientists who have seven to 12 years’ experience after their PhDs, to pursue their most promising ideas.

ERC Consolidator grants support researchers at a crucial time of their careers, strengthening their independence, reinforcing their teams and helping them establish themselves as leaders in their fields. And this backing above all gives them a chance to pursue their scientific dreams.

Professor Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council

To be kept up-to-date on the project, please contact Ben Geiger at 

In this story

Ben Baumberg  Geiger

Professor in Social Science and Health