School of Social and Political Science

Dr Hayley Bennett

Job Title

Lecturer in Social Policy

Hayley Bennett photo

Room number

3.27 CMB

Building (Address)

15a George Square,

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

My research examines the design and delivery of social security, labour market programmes, and anti-poverty initiatives for the working-age population in the UK. I have an interest in policy-making, public administration, place-based approaches, multi-level governance, devolution, and regional inequalities. I predominately use qualitative methodologies and specialise in collaborative and participatory research approaches. 

I am an Executive Member of the Social Policy Association and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Social Policy. With Elke Heins, I set up and co-convened the Social Policy Association's  'Employment and Social Security' Policy Group from 2021-2023. I manage the X/twitter account, follow us: @SpaEmploySocSec 

In SSPS I am a member of the Research Training Centre's qualitative research team, the  Work Economy Welfare research group, Territorial Research Group, and Centre for Constitutional Change. 


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

Research Experience (selected)


  • SOCIAL SECURITY IN A DEVOLVED UK: Exploring the extent of the devolution of social security within the UK and the realities, risks, and opportunities this poses for families with dependent children. Scotland lead, and co-lead of local discretionary workstream (Co-I, Funded by Nuffield Foundation, 2024-2027, led by Ruth Patrick, York University). 
  • NAVIGATING DIGITAL WELFARE: Exploring how people in receipt of social security payments use various digital interfaces to access benefits from multiple agencies in Scotland:  (PI, Funded by Challenge Investment Fund, EFI, 2021-2022. With Morgan Currie, STIS)
  • LABORATORIES OF SOCIAL INVESTMENT (book project: Edinburgh case): Post-industrial cities and the shifting boundaries of welfare provision (led by Anton Hemerijck, European University Institute, and Gemma Scalise,University of Milan-Bicocca) 

FORMER PROJECTS (selected): 

  • SOCIAL SECURITY SOUNDINGS: An online resource capturing conversations between women involved in social security research, activism, front-line delivery, policy-making, and leadership. Social Security Soundings ( 
  • 'What Works Scotland': Public Service Reform in Scotland to tackle 'wicked issues'. (Funded by Scottish Government, ESRC, 2015-2019)
  • 'Labour market activation policies in times of austerity' (UK case study). (Co-I Funded by the European Trade Union Institute 2015)
  • '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)
  • 'Blessed are the poor': Exploring the role of Faith Based Organisations in anti-poverty work since 2010. (PI, Funded via UoE, SSPS, Strategic Research Grant, 2014-2016)
  • Doctoral research and thesis (completed 2013) explored the marketisation of UK welfare-to-work services, place-based variations, and third sector involvement in public service contracting. 

Knowledge Exchange and Impact

(selected, see Edinburgh Research Explorer for up to date list)

  • IAA Poverty Alliance (2021-2022) 'Participatory research and evidence-based policy making to address poverty and inequality'.  
  • Specialist Advisor to the Scottish Affairs Committee (UK Parliament) for the Welfare Inquiry (consultancy  2020-2022)
  • UOA20 REF Impact Research Fellow for Social Policy and Social Work (2019-2020)
  • Member of the Scottish Parliament's Expert Panel on Social Security (2017-2019)
  • Founded and run the 'Let's discuss poverty' Blog Collection for the Poverty Alliance's Challenge Poverty Week 2014 and 2015, 2017

Blogs and articles (selected):


  • Course Organiser & lecturer: Qualitative Research: Principles and Practicalities for Social Policy (UG Hons) 
  • Teaching contributions: Policy in Action (PG), Politics of the Welfare State (UG), Social Inequality and the Life Course (UG), Labour Market Policy in Europe (UG)
  • Personal Tutor: MSc Public Policy; MA(Hons) Government, Policy and Society

PhD Supervision

I am currently accepting applications for PhD students interested in UK welfare state, unemployment and poverty (UK), low-income/precarious work, employment support/welfare-to-work/Active Labour Market Policies, local anti-poverty initiatives, UK social security (design and implementation), third sector, multi-level policy-making (poverty, welfare state), Scottish policy-making, policy implementation (eg street-level bureaucracy in welfare services), participatory methods to address poverty. 

Current doctoral researchers:

  • Helen Berry (with Dr Emma Davidson, Social Policy). 'How and why co-produced research leads to policy impact' (Binks Hub Studentship)

Completed doctoral researchers:

  • Luke Ray Campbell (with Dr Jackie Gulland, Social Work). 'Communities of Resistance?: The Impact of and Responses to Post-2010 Austerity on Lone Parent Families in North Edinburgh' (2024)

Publications (selected)

(see Edinburgh Research Explorer for a detailed list)

Eichhorn, J., Kenealy, D., & Bennett, H. (2023). Public understandings of welfare and the economy: Who knows what and does it relate to political attitudes? Social Policy & Administration, 1–24.

Bennett, H., and Brunner, R. (2022) 'Political and ethical dilemmas in multi-agency participatory research: the role of the buffer zone'. Methodological Innovations Journal (Early online view) Open Access. 

Bennett, H., and Brunner, R. (2022) ‘Nurturing the Buffer Zone: Conducting collaborative action research in contemporary contexts’ Qualitative Research22(1), 74–92. (Accepted, online view 2020)

Bennett, H., Escobar, O., Hill O’Connor, C., Plotnikova, E., & Steiner, A. (2022). Participation Requests: A Democratic Innovation to Unlock the Door of Public Services? Administration & Society54(4), 605–628. (Accepted, online view 2021)

Bennett, H., and Jones, K (2022) Getting in, being heard, and influencing change: The labours of policy engagement in employment and social security research Social Policy Review, 34. Chapter 3. 

Clegg, D., Bennett, H., Heins, E., and Eichhorn, J (2021) Leaving the old broken model behind? An alternative approach to work and welfare. IPPR Progressive Review (early 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 PerspectiveJournal 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.


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

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance


Semester 1 Unavailable (parental leave). 

Semester 2: Sabbatical (by appointment only).