Portrait of Dr Lavinia Mitton

Dr Lavinia Mitton

Senior Lecturer in Social Policy
Deputy Director of Education (Stage 1)

About

Dr Lavinia Mitton’s teaching and research interests are social inequalities in the UK. Her specialist areas of expertise are ethnicity and poverty studies. She has published on ethnic minorities in the UK and is co-editor of a major social policy textbook for Oxford University Press. 

Dr Mitton came to the University of Kent from the London School of Economics, where she did her PhD, titled “The Objectives and Outcomes of Means Testing under the British Welfare State”. It analysed the effectiveness of the policy of means testing welfare payments between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s. Before that she worked for Professor Holly Sutherland as a Junior Research Officer in the then Microsimulation Unit based at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Applied Economics. 

Dr Mitton has a PhD from the London School of Economics. Her MSc is from Wolfson College, University of Oxford, and is in The Social History of Medicine. Her BA is from Somerville College, University of Oxford, and is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. 

Research interests

Dr Mitton's research interests are in the field of social inequalities in the UK from a social policy perspective. Her specialist areas of expertise are ethnicity and poverty studies. She has a particular interest in analysing very large-scale surveys, such as the Family Resources Survey and the Labour Force Survey. 

Current research

Dr Mitton is working with colleagues from several Schools and Professional Services departments on the University of Kent ‘OFFA Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Project’. The team is piloting innovations in teaching and student support that will improve the educational experience at Kent for all students. Further information can be found on the Student Success Project website. A paper on their emerging findings was presented at the 2015 British Sociological Association Conference. 

Past research

Dr Mitton's previous research includes work on: 

  • Black Africans in the UK (funded by the ESRC) 
  • Financial exclusion in the UK (funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) 
  • Social security benefit fraud (funded by the Department for Work and Pensions) 
  • Welfare Innovations at the Local Level in Favour of Cohesion (funded by the EU) 
  • The impact of the economic crisis on social exclusion processes in Europe (funded by the La Caxia Foundation) 
  • Encouraging labour market participation among 50-64 years olds (funded by the Department for Work and Pensions) 

Teaching

Dr Mitton teaches on the welfare state in Britain and on social inequalities at undergraduate level.

At postgraduate level she teaches on international social policy and qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Supervision

Dr Mitton's current research students are: 

  • Ada Cheung (with Dr Joy Zhang) - 'Community care for older people in Urban China' 
  • Jellina Davies (with Dr Anne Logan) - 'Applying Behaviour Change Principles to Welfare Benefit Cap Regulation' 
  • Emma Stait (with Professor Mike Calnan) - 'Cigarette smoking and socio-economic position - prevalence, patterns and explanations' 

Professional

Dr Mitton is co-editor of the fourth edition of 'Social Policy', a major textbook from Oxford University Press.

In 2013-14, Dr Mitton participated in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Aurora Programme 

Publications

Article

  • Mitton, L. (2011). The Languages of Black Africans in England. Journal of Intercultural Studies [Online] 32:151-172. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07256868.2011.547174.
    The achievement of integration and a reduction in the social exclusion of ethnic minority communities in England are policy matters of major concern. This paper argues that policy-makers and service providers pursuing these aims need to understand the language support needs of minority ethnic groups at a fine level of detail: groupings such as 'Black' or even 'Black African' are of limited utility. Although much ethnicity research has tended to view Black Africans as a homogenous group, appreciation of their diverse language use is important because people from different parts of sub-Saharan Africa face different language barriers on arrival in the UK. This paper examines evidence available from large-scale survey data on the association between language and indicators often used to assess integration and social exclusion. The paper provides empirical statistical evidence on Black Africans living in England and languages in the form of tables and maps using data-sets not previously analysed for this purpose. These are (1) the Labour Force Survey (LFS); and (2) the National Pupil Database (NPD). The results show that Black Africans speak a very wide range of languages at home. Somalis are by far the least integrated and most socially excluded of the major language groups, followed by Ghanaians. Zimbabweans and Nigerians, on the other hand, face only slight language barriers. The paper concludes with some implications of the findings for policy-makers and service providers. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
  • Aspinall, P. and Mitton, L. (2008). 'Kinds of people' and equality monitoring in the UK. Policy and Politics [Online] 36:55-74. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/030557308783431661.
    Over the last few decades social identities have grown in importance,'sexual orientation' and'national identity'being the latest to join the fold.While all jostle for official recognition, which of these identity groups is monitored - and in what settings - is of practical importance. Respondent burden, concerns about confidentiality and disclosure, and the lack in some cases of benchmark data raise issues around the feasibility of monitoring multiple'equality strands'.As most organisations have limited capacity to undertake such analysis, a broader repertoire of approaches needs to be considered if this process is to be more than a meaningless bureaucratic exercise. © The Policy Press, 2008.
  • Aspinall, P. and Mitton, L. (2008). Operationalising 'sexual orientation' in routine data collection and equality monitoring in the UK. Culture Health and Sexuality [Online] 10:57-72. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13691050701664460.
    New legal provisions and regulatory practices in the UK have afforded protection against discrimination for sexual orientation minorities and conferred rights similar to those of heterosexually partnered couples. In addition, sexual orientation has been recognised as one of the main equality strands in new equality legislation and equality governance. Government departments and statutory and other organisations now face the need to collect equal opportunities and other data on these groups to monitor compliance. However, there has been little track record in the UK of collecting data on this dimension, resulting in issues of definition, categorisation, sample size and potential measurement error having to be addressed from a negligible evidence base. Limited survey data indicate significant problems relating to item non-response and misreporting, reflecting wider concerns about the sensitivity of the data and disclosure. Given that sexual orientation is on track to be mainstreamed in the context of workforce recruitment and service delivery, a strategy across government and other sectors is needed to pool expertise and establish a shared evidence base and stock of good practice.
  • Aspinall, P. and Mitton, L. (2007). Are English local authorities' practices on housing and council tax benefit administration meeting race equality requirements? Critical Social Policy [Online] 27:381-414. Available at: http://csp.sagepub.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/content/27/3/381.full.pdf+html.
    This paper investigates the extent to which the national and local state are meeting the requirements of race relations legislation in the area of means-tested housing and council tax benefits. Compliance with the prioritized duties is assessed in the context of both the wider issues driving the race equality agenda and more derailed arguments about managerial regimes and the central role of data. Two specific examples are pursued: the capacity to monitor take-up of benefits through an examination of ethnic monitoring on claims forms at different tiers of local government and an evaluation of progress through an analysis of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate's reports. The evidence indicates that compliance with the Act is patchy and piecemeal and that in many local authorities, even the basic building block for assessing impacts, ethnic monitoring of claimants, is not available. Alternative sources are evaluated, including pooled data from government social surveys and eligibility for free school meals, collected in the annual pupil census. Given the evidence for continuing differentials in the incomes of people from minority ethnic groups, prompt action is needed to ensure that race equality is mainstreamed in benefit administration.
  • Mitton, L. (2007). Means-Tested Higher Education? The English University Bursary Mess. Journal of Further and Higher Education [Online] 31:373-383. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03098770701625753.
    The UK government wishes to increase participation in higher education to 50%, with a key target group being students from 'non-traditional' backgrounds. At the same time, top-up fees have been introduced. Following the fierce parliamentary debates which threatened to derail the passage of the Higher Education Bill 2004, an amendment was introduced requiring universities to spend some fee income on bursaries, monitored by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). English universities now offer a bewildering array of bursaries and scholarships and benefits in kind worth some 350m pounds a year. Eligibility may depend on family income, exam performance or subjects studied. Student finance is made even more complicated to navigate by the choices to be made between student loans, commercial loans and earning by working, and difficulties understanding when and how these will be paid back. The failure of eligible individuals to claim income-related benefits they are entitled to has been a long-standing concern within social security policy. This article uses theory from the literature on benefit take-up to explore as a case study the probable effectiveness of the English student financial support system on increasing access to higher education. We conclude that despite OFFA's claims for it, the current system is unsatisfactory for attracting students from lower-income backgrounds, and suggest the implications for action for policy makers and managers.
  • Mitton, L. and Hull, C. (2006). The Information, Advice and Guidance Needs of Older Workers. Social Policy and Society [Online] 5:541-550. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1474746406003241.
    This article reviews the research on Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services for older workers in England. It sets out the arguments for targeting IAG services at older people in the context of extended working lives. It reviews the evidence on how to provide services which meet the specific needs of older workers, whilst recognising the diversity of the 50+ age group, and provides a case study of an age-sensitive IAG project. It concludes that demand for IAG from older workers needs to be stimulated and that the role of IAG in helping older adults to work and learn deserves greater recognition.

Book

  • Aspinall, P. and Mitton, L. (2011). The Migration History, Demography, & Socio-Economic Position of the Somali Community in Britain. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
    This book focuses on the migration history, demography, and socio-economic position of the Somali community in Britain, the largest of the Somali diaspora communities outside the African subcontinent. It addresses a number of specific themes, including the statistical invisibility of ethnic Somalis in official data collection and the decennial census; the rapidly growing size of the Somali migrant community in Britain, experiencing a growth rate of over 160 per cent in a decade; and, its complex migration history, including significant flows of asylum-seekers and refugees and onward migration from European Union countries.

Book section

  • Brookes, N., Kendall, J. and Mitton, L. (2016). Birmingham: A "Locality Approach" to Combating Worklessness. in: Brandsen, T. et al. eds. Social Innovations in the Urban Context. Springer, pp. 257-263. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-21551-8_20.
    The locality approach to worklessness in Birmingham is an approach to tackling worklessness developed by the city. It was locality driven and focused on areas where worklessness was high. Detailed consultation took place to agree neighbourhood employment and skills plans and services commissioned on that basis. It also had a strong client focus adopting an integrated employment and skills model. The aim of the model was to offer a continuous service, incorporating the provision of targeted action and support that each individual required no matter which provider they accessed. It enabled an in-depth understanding of issues for local residents where worklessness was high, which provided the opportunity for provider organisations to work together for the first time and to develop small-scale innovative projects. Key was the agreement of the major players in the local welfare system and their signing up to the model.
  • Brookes, N., Kendall, J. and Mitton, L. (2016). Birmingham, Priority to Economics, Social Innovation at the Margins. in: Brandsen, T. et al. eds. Social Innovations in the Urban Context. Springer, pp. 83-96. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-21551-8_5.
    The governance system in Birmingham over the decades has been rooted in a pro-growth strategy. This has resulted in an environment not typically conducive to large-scale social innovation. The impact of history is of significance, with the impact of recession and deindustrialisation that started in the 1980s, and that still continues today, influencing the policy and practice of actors in the city. The major, lasting innovation in the city is partnership working seen as essential to deliver the economic regeneration agenda. Until recently this was a ‘closed’ form of partnership comprising existing local political and economic power holders, but this has evolved to more inclusive engagement. The city council has focused over the years on the promotion of local economic development and employment growth, and to a lesser extent on the provision of services. However, the council has always seen economic development as also serving the objective of improving the quality of life of its citizens and therefore policies do not always show an obvious divide between social and economic policy. Using analysis of local labour market and housing and regeneration policy, the situation in Birmingham can be described as a case of urban governance where solutions to social problems are stated in terms of economic priorities. Innovation does occur but is marginal, through opportunistic and short-term support for small-scale projects, largely through national funding streams. Looking to the future, enhanced devolved decision-making was seen by local actors as a potential vehicle for innovation at the (very) local level.
  • Brookes, N., Kendall, J. and Mitton, L. (2015). Birmingham: The Youth Employment and Enterprise Rehearsal Project. in: Brandsen, T. et al. eds. Social Innovations in the Urban Context. Springer, pp. 251-255. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-21551-8_19.
    Youth Employment and Enterprise Rehearsal (YEER) was set up by The Future Melting Pot, a community interest company, to provide business support to black and minority ethnic young people who were not in employment, education or training. The main aim was to enable participants to set up their own enterprises. The project included training, support and access to accredited advisors. The approach was innovative in that it offered young people an alternative to the conventional focus on getting a job by providing the opportunity to explore the option of self-employment in an environment which was needs led. The approach could be described as intensive, personalised support to stimulate entrepreneurialism and an example of integrating economic and social domains.
  • Brookes, N., Kendall, J. and Mitton, L. (2014). United Kingdom: Birmingham. in: Evers, A., Ewert, B. and Brandsen, T. eds. Social Innovation for social cohesion: Transnational patterns and approaches from 20 European cities. WILCO, pp. 381-395. Available at: http://www.wilcoproject.eu/downloads/WILCO-project-eReader.pdf.
  • Brookes, N., Kendall, J. and Mitton, L. (2014). United Kingdom: Dover. in: Evers, A., Ewert, B. and Brandsen, T. eds. Social Innovation for social cohesion: Transnational patterns and approaches from 20 European cities. WILCO, pp. 397-412. Available at: http://www.wilcoproject.eu/downloads/WILCO-project-eReader.pdf.
  • Mitton, L. (2012). The Feminization of Poverty. in: Evans, M. and Williams, C. D. eds. Gender: The Key Concepts. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
  • Mitton, L. (2011). The history and development of social policy. in: Baldock, J. C. et al. eds. Social Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199570843.do#.
  • Mitton, L. (2011). How to research and write about social policy. in: Baldock, J. C. et al. eds. Social Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199570843.do#.
  • Mitton, L. and Liddiard, M. (2011). Social need and patterns of inequality. in: Baldock, J. C. et al. eds. Social Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199570843.do#.
  • Mitton, L. and Aspinall, P. (2010). Black Africans in England: A Diversity of Integration Experiences. in: Stillwell, J. and Ham, M. van eds. Ethnicity and Integration. Springer, London, pp. 179-202. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9103-1_9.
    Ethnicity and Integration
    Understanding Population Trends and Processes, Vol. 3;
    The theme of this volume is ethnicity and the implications for integration of our increasingly ethnically diversified population, with topics covering demographics and migration of ethnic groups, measures of integration or segregation, health and labour market characteristics, ethnicity and crime and ethnic population projections.
  • Mitton, L. (2009). The British Welfare System: Marketisation from Thatcher to New Labour (Chapter 28). in: Schubert, K., Hegelich, S. and Bazant, U. eds. The Handbook of European Welfare Systems. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 478-494. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415482752/.
  • Mitton, L. (2009). Work and Welfare (Chapter 10). in: Bochel, H. M. et al. eds. Social Policy: Themes, issues and debates. Pearson Education Ltd, pp. 210-234.
  • Mitton, L. (2009). The British welfare system: Marketization from Thatcher to New Labour. in: Klaus Schubert, K., Hegelich, S. and Bazant, U. eds. The Handbook of European Welfare Systems. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd. Available at: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/books/details/9780415482752/.
  • Taylor-Gooby, P. and Mitton, L. (2008). Much Noise, Little Progress: The UK Experience of Privatisation. in: Beland, D. and Gran, B. eds. Public and Private Social Policy: Health and Pension Policies in a New Era. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 147-168.
    Since the 1970s, UK governments in common with those of other welfare states have faced a dilemma: pressure on social spending due to population ageing and a changing labor market, and at the same time, strong pressures to contain taxation as international competition intensifies, capital becomes more mobile and electorates resist a greater tax-take. The UK stands out in its use of the private sector and introduction of market forces. Under the Thatcher (1979-1990) and Major (1990-1997) governments, the ‘marketization’ of welfare involved two strands. One was encouraging individuals to finance their own welfare, for example, by saving for their own pension or taking out private health insurance. The other concerned the promotion of ‘quasi-markets’ linking ‘public’ and ‘private’ in the welfare field (Deakin and Walsh 1996). This involved a new form of welfare state organization: private commercial or voluntary providers alongside public providers. The assumption was that this process would use competitive pressure to promote greater efficiency and responsiveness to the needs of those using the services, most notably in the area of health (Le Grand 1990; Le Grand and Bartlett 1993). Services from social housing to refuse collection, from social care to running prisons were contracted out to private and voluntary sector agencies (Vincent-Jones 2006).When Tony Blair became Labour leader he rejected both right-wing pro-market approaches and traditional left support for public ownership of state services in favour of a Third Way, between the state and the market (Blair 1998). Consequently, the party was renamed New Labour. Since coming to power in 1997 the New Labour governments have not taken apart the reforms of their Conservative predecessors, but have built on them. A 1999 policy document Modernising Government explained their approach:
    This Government will adopt a pragmatic approach, using competition to deliver improvements. This means looking hard but not dogmatically at what services government can best provide itself, what should be contracted to the private sector, and what should be done in partnership (Prime Minister and Minister for the Cabinet Office 1999).

    Central government typically retains regulatory powers and sets performance targets for public services which are delivered by a range of separate providers, often operating in competition. The assumption is that this will widen choice and drive down costs. In this chapter we examine recent policies in health care and pensions in the UK to see what lessons can be drawn from this experiment in welfare privatization and quasi-markets.
  • Mitton, L., Sutherland, H. and Weeks, M. (2000). Introduction. in: Mitton, L., Sutherland, H. and Weeks, M. eds. Microsimulation Modelling for Policy Analysis: Challenges and Innovations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-12.

Edited book

  • Baldock, J.C. et al. eds. (2011). Social Policy. [Online]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199570843.do#.
    What is social policy, and why are welfare systems important? How have they been affected by the global financial crisis? The fourth edition of this well-respected textbook provides an excellent introduction to social policy in the twenty-first century. Expert contributors examine the development, delivery, and implications of welfare, as well as the social and economic context by which it is shaped. With numerous helpful learning features and an attractive two-colour text design it is an ideal starting point for students new to the subject, and for those looking to take their learning further. The fourth edition includes three new chapters on the history and development of social policy, making social policy in a global context, and how to research and write about social policy. It is up-to-date with the coalition government's social policy agenda, and offers increased coverage of the important issues of equality, gender, ethnicity, migration, globalization and sustainability.
  • Mitton, L., Sutherland, H. and Weeks, M. eds. (2000). Microsimulation Modelling for Policy Analysis: Challenges and Innovations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Modern policy problems require analysts to capture the interactions between policy and the complexities of economic and social life, as well as between policies of different types. Increasingly, microsimulation is employed to analyse these problems. This book brings together examples of microsimulation modelling that are at the frontiers of developments in the field, either because they extend the range of techniques available to modellers, or because they demonstrate new applications for established methods. It represents the state of the art with chapters on the use of microsimulation for comparative policy research and for challenging conventional assumptions, combining microsimulation with other types of economic models and the much-neglected subjects of model alignment and validation. Data and case studies are taken from regions including Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

Research report (external)

  • Vickerstaff, S. et al. (2008). Encouraging labour market activity among 60-64 year olds. [Online]. Department for Work and Pensions. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2007-2008/rrep531.pdf.
    This research aimed to explore in some detail the attitudes and behaviours of people aged 50-64 towards work and retirement. The principal objective was to better understand what incentives, support or policy development might encourage people, especially those aged 60-64, to extend their working lives by staying in work longer or by returning to work if they had left the labour force.
    The research sought to answer the following questions:

    1 What barriers to working exist for 60-64 year olds; and how personal, structural and cultural factors interact to depress their labour market participation?
    2 What incentives would particularly help working among this age group?
    3 How the labour market opportunities of State Pension Age (SPA) equalisation can be maximised.
    4 How barriers to working might be removed.

    In common with other studies of work and retirement, we found a wide diversity of attitudes, circumstances, behaviours and intentions. Overall there was only limited appetite for extending working lives. A common feature among those who were working after retirement, or those
    who were considering extending their working lives, was a preference for flexible working. Part-time or casual work were the most common forms of flexible working
    in practice. The importance of flexible work opportunities for retaining older workers in the labour market was reinforced.
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