‘Keeping meself to meself’ - how social networks can influence narratives of stigma and identity for long-term sickness benefits recipients

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This article focuses upon social networks and their relationship to stigma and identity for long-term sickness benefits recipients in the North East of England. Drawing on empirical qualitative research with long-term sickness benefits recipients, this article demonstrates how the co-construction of stigma is fundamental in shaping how long-term sickness benefits recipients participate in social networks with friends, family and the community. The findings support the idea that the stigma of receiving benefits can be contrasted with nostalgia for the social elements of employment. Utilizing the work of Goffman, the article focuses on how the stigma and shame felt at receiving sickness benefits for an extended period of time interacts with social networks and identity. Reluctance to disclose a claimant identity to friends and family could lead to social isolation and a perceived need to ‘keep meself to meself’ which can be linked to a wider rhetoric surrounding benefits recipients that characterizes them as ‘scroungers’.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199–212
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2015


  • Social networks, Sickness benefits, Stigma, Identity, Neighbourhood, Scrounger