The impact of austerity on disabled, elderly and immigrants in the United Kingdom: A Literature Review

Kirsteen Macdonald, Heather M. Morgan* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Systematic literature searching identified 29 relevant health and social sciences articles for review on the topic of austerity policies and their impacts on the health and social care of disabled, elderly and immigrants in the United Kingdom (UK). Since 2010, government changes to previously state-funded areas meant levels of funding and eligibility changed significantly. Self-funding or self-managing healthcare, but more often social care, was transferred to individuals. While additional funding was given for some treatments, prevention approaches were cut. More people had to depend on non-professional care, mostly from family. Many family carers received no professional advice or information and mostly had to reduce their own employment hours and income to care for a dependent. The quality of services, professional or non-professional, became poorer than pre-2010. These changes increased marginalisation and stigma. Consequently, many ‘vulnerable’ became ‘vilified’ – disabled, elderly and immigrants often of the worst affected.
Points of interest:
Government definitions of ‘disability’, ‘elderly’ and ‘immigrant’ change. UK changes reduced the health and social care available to individuals recently.
Individuals were made responsible for knowing about changes that affected them and had to manage their care without professional guidance and support. Some had to use personal funding to maintain their quality of life.
Many people felt stigmatised because of the changes and were nervous about seeking help they were entitled to.
Health and social care should be joined-up and involve assessment, funding, and services offered as a package. This should be ideally focused on preventing worsening health, early treatment and support for managing long-term conditions.
Judging that people currently contributing to the economy through work as those who deserve government services is wrong. Assisting the well-being of those who cannot currently contribute can recognise past contributions and improve potential to contribute, and may reduce future needs for government services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1147
Number of pages23
JournalDisability & Society
Issue number7
Early online date2 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso and Clare Robertson, University of Aberdeen, for their early work with KM discussing the design of the study, especially for their advice on the topic of austerity and systematic literature reviewing processes. Thanks to the University staff at the Polwarth Library, too, for their support in finalising the search strategy. Thanks also to Jacquie Nicholson, University of Aberdeen, who has expertise in disability and joined later discussions with KM and HMM to help refine the focus for the data extraction and analysis processes.

Data Availability Statement

Supplemental data for this article is available online at


  • Austerity
  • healthcare
  • welfare
  • stigma
  • self-funding
  • state funding
  • UK


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