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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Hayley Bennett

Hayley Bennett
Dr Hayley Bennett
Research Fellow
4f1, 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 6511325
Research Interests
Contractualism, Welfare Markets, Unemployment, Labour Market, Poverty, Welfare reform politics, Welfare-to-Work, Regionalism, Third Sector, Inequality, public service reform, Public policy, social enterprise, Devolution and social security, Social Policy, Multi-level governance, Community Planning, local economic development, localism, policy implementation, social security

Dr Hayley Bennett is an experienced researcher of public administration focusing on the design and delivery of welfare services, labour market, and anti-poverty policies. In her work she questions how and why various levels of government, private, and third sector organisations are involved in designing and implementing public policies to address inequality in the UK. She is an expert on UK social security, inequality, poverty, and labour market issues. She was a member of the Scottish Parliament's Expert Panel on Social Security (2017-2019). 

Hayley's research demonstrates an interdisciplinary approach across social policy, organisation studies, geography, and public policy. She predominately uses qualitative methodologies and specialises in collaborative research approaches.  She has over 15 years experience in research and policy,  during this time she has designed and delivered innovative research and knowledge exchange collaborations with a variety of non-academic partners. This includes Scottish Government, third sector organisations, and numerous local authorities. 

She has been a full-time Research Fellow in the School of Social and Political Science since 2013: 

- From 2019- present: Research Fellow (Impact). 

- From 2015- 2019:  Research Fellow What Works Scotland (WWS, Funded by Scottish Government and ESRC).  WWS was a large and intensive project conducting empirical research and generating impact on public service reform in Scotland. Hayley was a core team member and examined how the design and implementaiton of public services can tackle inequalities and poverty. 

She also developed a number of methodological tools and was:

  • Lead of the state-third sector relations workstream (2017-2019)
  • Co-lead of the core WWS research design workstream (2015-2016)
  • Co-lead of the Collaborative Action Research workstream (2015-2019).

She also designed and piloted a large, innovative, Collaborative Action Research programme (2015-2018) involving 90 policymakers and practitioners using a series of  research  and evidence-use inquiries. As part of this work she designed and piloted 'impact capturing' tools and collaborative methodological outputs.  

-From 2013-2015: Research Fellow on a comparative European social policy project (Combating Poverty in Europe) exploring minimum income provision from a multi-level governance perspective in six European countries: Germany,  Italy, Poland, Norway,  Sweden, and United Kingdom. (Funded by EU FP7)

- Prior to returning to academia in 2007, Hayley worked in the public sector designing and delivering regeneration and economic development initiatives in post-industrial localities across the UK for over 5 years.  

Other research activities (a selection)

  • Co-Investigator (2015) Labour market activation policies in times of austerity (UK case study) for the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)
  • Co-Investigator (2014-2016) 'Blessed are the poor'. This project explores the role of Faith Based Organisations in anti-poverty work since 2010. (Funded via UoE, SSPS, Strategic Research Grant)
  • Visiting Fellow, Trinity College Dublin in the Non-Profit Management Group, TCD Business School (2012)
  • Research and Policy Executive, The Wise Group, Glasgow (2011-2012) 


  • PhD, University of Edinburgh (2008-2013)- (ESRC CASE studentship)

"The marketisation of UK employment services. The impact on a third sector organisation"  

  • MSc by Research in Social Policy, University of Edinburgh (ESRC CASE studentship)
  • MA Local and Regional Economic Development, Aberystwyth University  (IGES award)
  • BA Human Geography (First class honours) Aberystwyth University (UWA scholarship)

Publications (a selection, see Edinburgh Research Explorer for a detailed list)  

Bennett, H. (2017) Re-examining British Welfare-to-Work Contracting using a Transaction Cost Perspective. Journal of Social Policy, Vol 46, 1, 129-148

Heins, E., and Bennett, H. (2016) "Best of both worlds’? A comparison of third sector providers in health care and welfare-to-work markets in Britain." Social Policy and Administration, Vol 50, 1, 39–58.

Bennett, H. (2016) "Anti-poverty activities in a liberal welfare model: Local levers and multi-level tensions in Glasgow, UK" in Johansson, H., and Panican, A. Eds. Combating Poverty in Local Welfare Systems- Active Inclusion Strategies in European Cities. Palgrave

Angelin, A., Bennett, H., and Zielenska, M. (2016) "Provisions of relevance for lone mothers, long-term unemployed and working poor in five countries- are provisions multidimensional and integrated?" in Halvorsen, R. and Hvinden, B. Combating Poverty in Europe: Active Inclusion in a Multi-level and Multi-Actor context. Edward Elgar.

Bennett, H. (2015) 'Permanently Changing? Operationalising Research into Organisational Change in the Third Sector' North East Third Sector Research Group Annual Digest.

Book Review: M.Ramesh, Eduardo Araral Jr and Xun Wu (2010) Reasserting the Public in Public Services. New Public Management reforms” in Work, Employment and Society Volume 26 Number 6, December 2012

Research reports

Bennett, H (2017) Undertaking Collaborative Action Research; Fife programme. Research report, WWS. 

Bennett, H. (2014) Active Inclusion of Deprived Groups in Glasgow (UK report) Research report, COPE.

Clegg, D., and Bennett, H.(2014) Multilevel “Arenas” for Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion. (UK report) Research report, COPE.

Bennett, H., and Clegg, D. (2013) The local arena for combating poverty. (Glasgow, UK report). Research report, COPE.

Recent knowledge exchange activities (a selection, see Edinburgh Research Explorer for up to date list) 

  • Member of the Scottish Parliament's Social Security Committee Expert Panel (2017-2019)
  • Speaker at various Scottish Government events on public service reform and collaborative governance 
  • Member of Poverty Alliance's national steering group for 'Challenge Poverty Week' (2017) 
  • Initiated and managed the 'Let's discuss poverty' Blog for the Poverty Alliance's Challenge Poverty Week 2014 and 2015, 2017

Conference presentations (a selection)

Bennett, H. (2017) “Beyond the ‘Shadow State’? Exploring civil society in response to welfare state retrenchment in Scotland”, Institute of British Geographers and Royal Geographical Society Annual International conference, London 27th Aug-1st Sept

Bennett, H. (2017) “Invisible rescaling of the British Welfare State? Street-level collaborations to mitigate benefit sanctioning in Scotland”, Social Policy Association Annual Conference, Durham 10-12th July

Bennett, H. (2016) The invisible rescaling of the British welfare state? The case of a “Local Welfare System” in Scotland.  Paper presentation at the Regional Studies Winter Conference, 24-25 November. London 

Bennett, H. and Heins, E. (2016) Earn or Learn? Labour market policies for young people in the UK since the crisis. Presented (by Elke Heins) at ESPAnet 2016, 1-3rd Sept, Erasmus University, Rotterdam 

Bennett, H. (2015) "Blessed are the poor? Church discourse and practice in relation to welfare policies since 2010"Social Policy Association Annual Conference, Ulster University. Paper presentation and panel convenor (Panel: Serving two masters? Faith and well-being in social policy).

Bennett, H. (2012) “Pricing out third sector organisations in the UK welfare-to-work market.”  Social Policy Association Annual Conference, York University. Paper presentation and panel convenor (Panel: Welfare reform and the Freud report).

Bennett, H. (2012) “The third sector in the UK welfare-to-work market: ideas of social enterprise and national identity.” University College Cork: Third Sector Management Group

Bennett, H. (2011) “The UK welfare-to-work market 2000-2011- the demise of the third sector?” University of Edinburgh: Work, Economy and Welfare Research Group. 

Bennett, H. (2011) “Exploring social and market legitimacy in the UK welfare-to-work industry: A case study of a third sector provider.” 7th International Critical Management Studies Conference, Naples University. 


Social Policy Association (SPA), Regional Studies Association, Welfare Reform Network,  The Poverty Alliance, University of Edinburgh's 'Work, Economy and Welfare research group'.