Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many updates on the progress of my research. Given that my research is related to a topic of public concern and is funded publicly, I believe strongly in updating interested parties on its progress.
At the start of this month I went to see Jennifer Harris, director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Disability Studies (IDRIS) at the University of Dundee. She seemed very interested in what I’m doing and has put me in touch with some of her colleagues who have been involved in the delivery of employment services to disabled people.
On 21 November, I flew out to Copenhagen to meet Jan Hogelund and Steene Bengtsson, disability researchers for SFI, the body that carries out social research for the Danish government and Danish public authorities. They were very helpful in suggesting people who have previously or are currently working for the country’s labour market authorities or disabled persons’ organisations and are going to help me set those interviews up. We’ve decided on three or so visits of a fortnight each for that purpose, hopefully starting in March. They’ve also offered me desk space in the SFI and whatever institutional support the SFI can provide, which is very much appreciated and should hopefully make things run more smoothly.
With hardly enough time to unpack my suitcase, the next few days were given over to preparing my presentation for the ‘Making Connections’ conference at Queen Margaret University on 24 November. Focusing on how we connect research to the wider world, a spoke about the relevance of my research to other disciplines and to policy. I seemed to have got the message across, as I’ve been asked to go back to QMU in February to speak to the Vocational Rehabilitation department about the wider political and policy context of employment support services for sick and disabled people. I also met there a QMU student studying the impact of public service cuts in Edinburgh: glad to see there other people taking an academic interest in the impact of the cuts and that I’m not all alone.
Around that time I had my monthly supervision with Daniel and Jochen. They had a few concerns about how some of my interview questions link up with the research questions, but were otherwise happy with the direction of the project and the progress I’m making with fieldwork. I’m currently taking a second look at the questions before I send them off to the DWP. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few interviews set-up before everything stops for Christmas.
Given that the recession is the more experimental part of my research and because there is less existing literature in which to secure it, I’m writing a paper laying out why I think researchers need to consider the impact of recession on the position of sick and disabled claimants within the benefits and welfare-to-work systems and developing a research agenda to guide such research. I’ll present this to departmental colleagues at the Work, Economy and Welfare group on 7 December and then hopefully submit it to Disability & Society (Jennifer, a member of its editorial board, made some encouraging noises about doing so) in the New Year, once I’ve had time to make changes in the light of WEW’s comments.