The everyday impacts of austerity in the UK

The economic downturn in the UK between 2008-2013 led to a period of low growth and austerity. Our research has informed the work of key influential organisations and changed public perceptions of austerity, bringing the personal impacts of austerity to the fore.

Impact highlights

  • Austerity is a very personal condition that is real, felt and experienced.
  • Following training, 99% of participants felt they had some or full understanding of creative research methods.
  • An exhibition based on the research attracted more than 4,000 visitors.

Previous research focused on governmental perspectives of austerity, rather than its effects on everyday life. Professor Sarah Marie Hall worked with families and communities to learn about the impacts of austerity policies on real people and their social relationships. The research challenged the perception that austerity is only an economic and political condition.

Ongoing impact

The Everyday Austerity project is the key inspiration for the ‘Austerity and Altered Life-Courses’ fellowship (UKRI, £1.5m, PI: Hall).

This new project explores how ten years of austerity policies across Europe have led to ‘ruptures' in young people's biographies.

Professor Hall found that austerity exposes and worsens socio-economic inequalities, and disproportionately affects women. Cuts were targeted on public institutions, social welfare and care infrastructures (sectors with a predominantly female workforce and client base), with BAME women most negatively affected by austerity.

The research also found that women were typically burdened with managing the impact of these cuts through formal and informal employment and care responsibilities, and in the pivotal contributions that they made to everyday social support systems, via their family, friendship and neighbourhood relationships. Professor Hall’s work highlighted the benefits of using in-depth, long-term studies to document everyday practices and inform evidence-based policymaking. To understand how austerity is entrenched within everyday life, research methods should give voice to people’s lived experience, engaging stakeholders about sensitive topics in meaningful and creative ways.

Professor Hall’s research informed national and local policy-making regarding families, welfare and austerity. Findings from her research were included in evidence submitted by Citizens Advice to the Affordable Childcare Committee and the Childcare Payment Bill as it progressed through Parliament, and Professor Hall’s recommendations are included in Manchester City Council's Family Poverty Strategy 2017-2022.

“It has made me think about effects of austerity on individuals, rather than austerity as government policy.”

Feedback from a visitor to the Everyday Austerity exhibition

Professor Hall delivered 18 training sessions in creative research methods to local, regional and national organisations, on how austerity should be approached in practice. More than 120 people in research, policy and activist roles participated in the training. 99% of participants indicated that they had found the course either useful (21%) or very useful (78%), and 81% said they would use the methods in their future work.

The Everyday Austerity public exhibition toured across Greater Manchester from 2016-2017. The exhibition brought the research to life using written field notes, audio clips, photographs, objects and illustrations. The exhibition attracted more than 4,000 visitors. Feedback from visitors showed that the exhibition an impact on their thoughts about austerity, including a sensitivity to and appreciation of how life is affected by austerity.

Connect with our experts

We are excited to connect with audiences interested in our work.

Connect with Sarah Marie Hall