This is the research blog of a project on the history of incapacity benefits. The researcher is Dr Jackie Gulland, who is based in social work in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. The research is funded through a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship.

Jackie Gulland’s research is about how ordinary people go about claiming social security benefits and how they use appeals.  She is also interested in how decisions are made about who is entitled to benefits and who is not.

She began her career working in the voluntary sector as an information officer and trainer. Her work raised important questions about how people negotiate entitlements and challenge decisions about their rights. In order to follow this interest she made a major career change to study for a PhD in social policy. Since then she has continued to study these questions from a socio-legal perspective. She is interested in how ideas about rights affect social polices.

If you have a health problem or a disability today in the UK and you need to claim benefits you may claim Employment and Support Allowance.  You will have to take a medical test to assess whether or not you are capable of work. If you are found capable of work you can appeal against this decision.  You may have seen reports about large numbers of people appealing successfully, raising questions about whether the medical tests are fair.

But these debates are not new. This research looks at similar questions about how to assess people’s capacity for work right back at the beginning of the welfare state in the early 20th century.  This blog will comment on issues coming up in the research.