I have a strong interest in research and policy around sickness, impairment and disability. My main projects are around (i) how we assess incapacity, (ii) the disabling effect of bad work, and (iii) how to reduce poverty among disabled people:
How we assess incapacity
The way we assess incapacity (that is, assess if people should receive out-of-work benefits on the grounds of disability) is in chaos. This is partly due to practical issues, but also because of a lack of clarity about exactly what we are trying to assess - the current system does NOT assess incapacity as most people would understand it. In a three-year ESRC-funded project (ESRC grant ES/K009583/1), I therefore explore what inacpacity might mean, how other countries assess it, and conduct new (qualitative and quantitative) public opinion work to see what disabled people, policy elites and the British public think. I also build on the analysis of disabling work that I describe below to consider if we should take account of people's differing ability to deal with workplace impairments.
For more details about the project, see the project website at www.rethinkingincapacity.org.
The disabling impact of bad work
In 2014 I began a three-year ESRC study of how people can deal with impairments at work, and the extent to which some people are more able to deal with impairments than others (a further part of the ESRC project mentioned above). The project uses English and European data in two main sets of analyses: (i) setting out the disability employment penalty over time and across countries (existing comparisons are generally worthless); and (ii) looking at how far different people can use job adjustments and job changes to cope with workplace impairments (which strangely hasn't really been studied much before).
This extends the earlier work in my PhD that was completed in December 2011, examined by Prof Francis Green and Prof Stephen Stansfeld, and supervised by Prof John Hills and Dr Tania Burchardt at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It's full title is Does rising job strain explain deteriorating fitness-for-work and rising incapacity claims?, and it's available online via LSE theses online (the appendices and web appendices are available here). So far I have published a paper in the Journal of Social Policy (Baumberg 2014) and a book chapter (Baumberg 2011), with a further paper under review, and have presented this work a number of times (see Publications for links/documents); obviously there will be several more papers to come in the new project.
Disability and poverty
I'm part of a team (led by Tom MacInnes at the New Policy Institute) that did a 2014 review of disability, impairment and poverty for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This was published here, and was covered by the Disability News Service with the headline, "Official figures ‘underestimate disability poverty by one million people".