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The Criminalisation of Welfare (level 6)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Rachael Dobson
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (100%)

Module description

How are people criminalised through social welfare? This module explores this question through the study of social control in legislation, policy and practice. It introduces the idea that historically, and in contemporary society, poor people are punished, regulated and disciplined. It thinks about the ways that specific social ‘groups’ are constructed as transgressive and dangerous through social welfare. Throughout the module, the question of how social welfare is criminalised, and why, is explored through national and global real-world events. Case-study examples are drawn from responses to marginalised people, such as economic migrants, social housing tenants, homeless people and ‘troubled’ families. You will learn about the lived experiences of criminalised welfare through exploration of policy and legislation implementation by welfare professionals, and its receipt by vulnerable people. You will be introduced to how criminalising cultures are challenged, resisted and subverted in theory and practice.

Indicative module content

  • The historical and contemporary governance of ‘problem people’
  • Social control: empire, nation, race and gender
  • Place, space, urban environment and social fear; moral and physical malaise
  • Social and relational constructions of transgressive behaviour and social disorder
  • Stereotypes and power: social identity, representation and positioning
  • Influencing behaviour: theory, policy and practice
  • Resistance and subversion in theory and practice
  • Case studies: homelessness, anti-social behaviour, ‘troubled’ families

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the idea of socially, culturally, politically, geographically and historically situated responses to transgressive behaviour and people
  • identify the ways that social policy, legislation, social welfare institutions and professionals are engaged with the social control and discipline of behaviour and people
  • evaluate the construction and regulation of behaviour and people as global social phenomena, and as linked to questions of social identity
  • analyse real-world social problems and ‘problem people’, and responses to these, using theoretical, conceptual and empirical knowledge
  • understand how academic knowledge can be used to analyse and communicate real-world issues and events
  • understand criminalisation of welfare debates as relational to intellectual movements.
  • make connections between human experience, theory, policy and legislation, and everyday practices.