Programme form and service user well-being: linking theory and evidence

Adam Whitworth, Eleanor Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Since the early 1990s, the “activation turn” has become a standard welfare orthodoxy at the heart of international welfare systems. Although policymakers talk confidently about the well-being gains of activation interventions and their employment outcomes, a growing body of research has focused instead on questions around “activation process well-being”—the potential well-being effects of participation in activation programmes themselves. The present article makes three main contributions to the theory, knowledge, and policy practice of this activation well-being literature. First, the paper develops an original conceptual framework that newly connects well-being theory, qualitative variation in programmatic form, and empirically testable well-being expectations for participating service users. Second, the paper uses multivariate statistical analyses to examine six conceptually derived hypotheses around variation in programme forms and implications for participating service users' well-being, drawing on the case study of U.K. activation policy. Noteworthy is the paper's unique distributional insights into well-being effects across different types of service users. Third, the paper offers new policy contributions around the relevance of policy form to service user well-being as well as important pointers to key programme features in this regard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-858
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number5
Early online date11 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • activation
  • employment support
  • programme design
  • quasi‐marketisation
  • well‐being
  • Work Programme


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