Published output

The PSE team have published the results of the Northern Ireland PSE survey research, the findings of the PSE UK qualitative research in Northern Ireland and the methodolgy and impact of the PSE community collaboration project in the following publications and journal papers.


'Child Poverty in Northern Ireland: Results from the Poverty and Social Exclusion Study'

by Mike Tomlinson, Paddy Hillyard and Grace Kelly

In 'Beneath the Surface: Child Poverty in Northern Ireland', (pp. 11-34,  Chapter 2) Belfast: Child Poverty Alliance (2014)


This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the PSE 2012 NI research findings on poverty in Northern Ireland. It examines people's attitudes to which items and activities are necessities and goes on to detail those who cannot afford these items. The chapter sets out the drawing of a child poverty line. Overall, a third of Northern Ireland households with children are in PSE poverty. Notably, given Northern Ireland’s traditionally high rate of ‘inactivity’, in almost half (49 per cent) of these households, there are people in work, either employed or self-employed. 

Full text:…

Families and Poverty: Everyday life on a low income'

by Professor Mary Daly and Dr Grace Kelly, 2015, The Policy Press, £24.99


The recent radical cutbacks of the welfare state in the UK have meant that poverty and income management continue to be of great importance for intellectual, public and policy discourse. Written by leading authors in the field, the central interest of this innovative book is the role and significance of family in a context of poverty and low-income. Based on a micro-level study carried out in 2011 and 2012 with 51 families in Northern Ireland, it offers new empirical evidence and a theorisation of the relationship between family life and poverty. Different chapters explore parenting, the management of money, family support and local engagement. By revealing the ordinary and extraordinary practices involved in constructing and managing family and relationships in circumstances of low incomes, the book will appeal to a wide readership, including policy makers.


Journal Papers

Critical Social Policy

February 2016; 36 (1), Sage journals

Risking peace in the ‘war against the poor’? Social exclusion and the legacies of the Northern Ireland conflict

MIke Tomlinson, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Discourses around poverty, dependency and austerity take a particular form regarding Northern Ireland which is seen as ripe for economic ‘rebalancing’ and public sector reduction. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 is pivotal in that it provides the muscle for disciplining claimants for a low-waged, flexible labour market. But the Northern Ireland Assembly has not passed the Act or agreed a budget and the return of Direct Rule beckons as a result. The article sheds light on the stand-off over the Welfare Reform Act using data from the 2012 PSE Survey. It demonstrates that the impact of violent conflict is imprinted on the population in terms of high rates of deprivation, poor physical and mental health, and significant differences between those experiencing little or no conflict, and those with ‘high’ experience. In ignoring these legacies of the conflict, the Westminster government is risking peace in its ‘war against the poor’.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 104-123, first published on October 6, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315609047


February 2016; 36 (1), Sage journals
Shattering the silence: The power of Purposeful Storytelling in challenging social security policy discourses of ‘blame and shame’ in Northern Ireland
Gabi Kent, The Open University, England
This article reports on a pioneering engagement project between team members from the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE UK) study, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and marginalised communities, located in areas of high deprivation in Northern Ireland. Community conversations and a tailor-made methodology of ‘Purposeful Digital Storytelling’ to capture and share data, engendered empowerment, engaging individuals and communities as producers of knowledge and agents of change. Findings from this Participatory Action Research collaboration offer fresh insights into the potential of collective knowledge sharing to challenge the corrosive impact of poverty-induced shame.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 124-141, first published on October 16, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315604420


December 23, 2015, Sage Journals, doi:10.1177/0038038515616355
Money-Related Meanings and Practices in Low-Income and Poor Families
Mary Daly, University of Oxford
This article focuses on the meanings and repertoires of action associated with money in low-income and poverty circumstances. Based on interviews with 51 people, the analysis reveals how people on a low income actively engage with money as a way of situating themselves in their complex worlds. Money is investigated at two levels: praxis and orientation regarding spending, and as part of self-identity. In regard to spending, people displayed two main repertoires: one was functional (viewing money as a way of meeting material need) and the second relational (with money interpreted in regard to relationships and upholding of personal and familial values). These repertoires in turn link into self-understanding and world view. For people in poverty and low income, money can be a disabler, detracting from a valued identity and sense of future but a counter, more positive, orientation normalises lack of money, by reference to skills and character development and core values and relationships. The research as a whole underlines the complexity of money in low-income or poverty settings, the agency and creativity which people bring to its use and the diverse meanings they invest it with.

Policy & Politics 

Volume 41, Number 2, April 2013, pp. 139-157(19), Policy press, doi 10.1332/030557312X655530
Is everybody happy? The politics and measurement of national wellbeing
Michael W. Tomlinson and Grace P. Kelly, Queen's University, Belfast
This article explores the political and intellectual influences behind the growth of interest in happiness and the emergence of the new ‘science of happiness’. It offers a critique of the use of subjective wellbeing indicators within indexes of social and economic progress, and argues that the proposed United Kingdom’s National Well-being Index is over-reliant on subjective measures. We conclude by arguing that the mainstreaming of happiness indicators reflects and supports the emergence of ‘behavioural social policy’.

Social Indicators Research

Oct 2015: 1-22, Springer
Comparative Assessment of Methods for Measuring Consensual Poverty: Sort Card Versus CAPI
Grace Kelly, Queen’s University, Belfast, Michael Tomlinson, Queen’s University, Belfast, Demi Patsios, University of Bristol
Poverty means more than having a low income and includes exclusion from a minimally accepted way of life. It is now common practice in Europe to measure progress against poverty in terms of low income, material deprivation rates and some combination of both. This makes material deprivation indicators, and their selection, highly significant in its own right. The ‘consensual poverty’ approach is to identify deprivation items which a majority of the population agree constitute life’s basic necessities, accepting that these items will need revised over time to reflect social change. Traditionally, this has been carried out in the UK through specialised poverty surveys using a Sort Card (SC) technique. Based on analysis of a 2012 omnibus survey, and discussions with three interviewers, this article examines how perception of necessities is affected by mode of administration—SC and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). More CAPI respondents scored deprivation items necessary. Greatest disparities are in material items where 25 out of 32 items were significantly higher via CAPI. Closer agreement is found in social participation with 3 out of 14 activities significantly different. Consensus is higher on children’s material deprivation. We consider influencing variables which could account for the disparities and believe that the SC method produces a more considered response. However, in light of technological advances, we question how long the SC method will remain socially acceptable. This paper concludes that the CAPI method can be easily modified without compromising the benefits of the SC method in capturing thoughtful responses.


PhD theses

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast

Subjective Well-being and the Measurement of Poverty

Grace Kelly,  November 2014 (awarded)
This thesis is concerned with the level of enthusiasm and speed at which alternative subjective measures of well being have being embraced and the consequences this poses for objective measures of poverty based on low income and material deprivation. The study concludes that the ‘enforced lack’ measure of deprivation is the most effective in identifying individuals at risk of material deprivation.  Meanwhile, levels of overall life satisfaction are argued to be particularly vulnerable to adaptation processes. This is because people rate their satisfaction relative to the quality of their personal relationships, rather than using a more reflective view of life overall.


Full thesis can be download here.


Tweet this page