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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Hayley Bennett

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

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Thursday 10am-12pm (please email in advance to schedule a Teams appointment)

I am an experienced researcher of public administration focusing on the design and delivery of welfare services, social security, labour market programmes, and anti-poverty policies. I question 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. predominately use qualitative methodologies and specialise in collaborative research approaches working with Scottish Government, third sector organisations, and local authority partners. I have also worked in the public sector designing and delivering regeneration and economic development initiatives in post-industrial localities across the UK. 

I was a member of the Scottish Parliament's Expert Panel on Social Security (2017-2019). I am currently an appointed Special Advisor to the Scottish Affairs Committee (UK Parliament) for the Welfare Inquiry (Nov 2020-April 2021). 

I have contributed to or led numerous research projects, through which I have examined issue such as: 

  • Collaborative governance and street-level practice in relation to benefit sanctioning and the introduction of Universal Credit
  • Methodological approaches to collaborative action research in multi-agency settings to address inequalities in Scotland
  • Governance-driven democratic innovations to increase citizen participation in Scottish public services 
  • The use of quasi-markets and UK welfare-to-work policies (especially third sector involvement)
  • The role of the third sector in reducing poverty at the local level post 2010 (in Scotland)
  • Welfare subjects and charitable food aid in low income neighbourhoods in Scotland  

  Research projects (selected) 

  •  'What Works Scotland': Public Service Reform in Scotland to tackle 'wicked issues'.  (Funded by Scottish Government, ESRC, 2015-2019)
  • 'Combating Poverty in Europe': Comparative European social policy examining minimum income provision and multi-level governance in six European Countries; Germany,  Italy, Poland, Norway,  Sweden, and United Kingdom. (Funded by EU FP7, 2013-2015)
  • 'Labour market activation policies in times of austerity' (UK case study). (Funded by the European Trade Union Institute  2015)
  • 'Blessed are the poor': Exploring the role of Faith Based Organisations in anti-poverty work since 2010. (Funded via UoE, SSPS, Strategic Research Grant, 2014-2016)


  • PhD, University of Edinburgh (ESRC CASE studentship)
  • 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 (selected, see Edinburgh Research Explorer for a detailed list)  

Bennett, H., and Brunner, R. (2020) ‘Nurturing the Buffer Zone: Conducting collaborative action research in contemporary contexts’ Qualitative Research Journal (Online View).

Heins, E., and Bennett, H. (2018) ‘Retrenchment, conditionality, and flexibility- UK labour market policies in the era of austerity’ in Theodoropoulou, S. (ed) 2018, 'Labour reforms in the era of pervasive austerity: European perspective.Policy Press.

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.

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

  • Covid Realities blog, Nov 2020: Precarious work, precarious research? 
  • Member of the Scottish Parliament's Social Security Committee Expert Panel (2017-2019)
  • Member of Poverty Alliance's national steering group for 'Challenge Poverty Week' (2017) 
  • Founded and run the 'Let's discuss poverty' Blog Collection for the Poverty Alliance's Challenge Poverty Week 2014 and 2015, 2017


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

Topics interested in supervising

Employment support Welfare-to-work Active Labour Market Policies Local anti-poverty initiatives UK social security (design and implementation) UK third sector UK policy-making (poverty, welfare state). Scottish policy-making Policy implementation (eg street-level bureaucracy)