'No Rights without Responsibilities': Disability Rights and Neoliberal Reform under New Labour

Randall Owen, Sarah Parker Harris


The New Labour government in the United Kingdom led a series of welfare reforms for people with disabilities from 1997 to 2010. These reforms were heavily influenced by neoliberalism, and emphasized that there were 'no rights without responsibilities, 'making labor market participation essential. Simultaneously, the recognition of disability rights was growing in the United Kingdom, culminating in the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009. This article explores the tension between neoliberalism and the human rights approach to disability in the context of New Labour’s welfare reforms for people with disabilities. The analysis includes the perspectives of people with disabilities and disability stakeholders who participated in focus groups or interviews in an English metropolitan region, and is framed by the principles that underpin the Convention. The article offers policy insights to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are included in future welfare reforms.

Key Words:  conditionality, employment, welfare-to-work, workfare, United Kingdom


conditionality; employment; welfare-to-work; workfare; United Kingdom

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v32i3.3283

Copyright (c) 2012 Randall Owen, Sarah Parker Harris

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)