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  Social inequalities in the receipt of welfare benefits and the impact of mental and neurological disorders: a big data project

   Department of Psychological Medicine

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  Dr Sharon Stevelink, Dr Ioannis Bakolis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are looking for a PhD candidate who is interested to develop their skills and expertise in understanding and analysing complex, longitudinal administrative data related to welfare, mental health and disability. This fully funded PhD studentship is well suited to someone who is keen to work on research questions that can have a significant impact on welfare, public policy and service delivery affecting the lives of millions of people in the UK.

Considering that mental health problems are one of the main reasons for people to fall out of work and claim unemployment or disability benefits, it is important for us to understand patterns and trends in benefit receipt, particularly among more vulnerable groups of our society, including those with mental health problems or a disability. This PhD will explore how benefit receipt varies among groups of people, for example, people accessing mental health services, people from different racial and ethnic minority groups, people with caring responsibilities and those with a disability. The PhD will use two novel linked datasets that combine detailed benefits information derived from administrative records held by the Department for Work and Pensions with either electronic mental health record data from people accessing secondary mental health or socio-demographic and health data provided by people who took part in the 2011 Census.

The PhD will benefit from the close collaboration with Lambeth Council, a Borough in South London and they will provide a 13-week data-driven placement with their Skills and Employment team, access to internal local authority datasets and Lambeth’s wide network of stakeholders and partners across institutions to support the dissemination of findings and network building. Engagement with the policy and strategy context of the Council would also be central to the placement. Both Lambeth Council and people with lived experience of navigating the welfare and healthcare system have informed the aims of the PhD and their involvement will remain central over the course of the project.

You will join a friendly, supportive and collegial environment with a large range of opportunities for involvement in various research projects, training and teaching opportunities.

Essential Criteria

  • BSc or MSc in relevant subject area (statistics, geography, epidemiology, data science, public health, psychology, econometrics with a specific focus on public health research or policy evaluation)
  • (Close to) Postgraduate level of skill in statistical analysis, using at least one of Stata or R, and able and willing to extend skills (e.g. to use SQL)
  • Able to write succinctly and with clarity
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Strong time and personal management skills and ability to work to deadlines
  • Good communication skills (spoken and written)
  • Excellent working knowledge of Excel, Word, PowerPoint

Desirable criteria

  • Experience of preparing large datasets for analysis from longitudinal surveys or routine healthcare settings
  • Experience working as a data analyst in a research environment
  • Competence in the analysis of longitudinal studies
  • To have published in peer-reviewed journals  

For more information on the data sources, anticipated methods and policy relevance see:

Funding Notes:

+3 (PhD only) fully funded for 3 years, or up to 6 years part-time.

1+3 (Master and PhD). The student is required to undertake one of the Master programmes listed at The Master programme of choosing will be agreed with the supervisors.

Please note that when applying for the +3 (PhD only) award, the applicant should have a MSc (level 7 modules) that covers at least three of the four major ESRC core research methods areas – social theory, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and research design. In some cases, we can consider professional experience. More details regarding these core research methods areas, see here.

The award will cover the student fees, provide a stipend and a small budget for training, consumables, conference attendance and other related PhD expenses.

If the successful candidate is required to undertake a Master programme, the fees for the Master programme will be covered. During this time, the student will also receive a stipend. 

Home students as well as international students are eligible to apply, but only a small number of fully funded PhD studentships are available for international students. More details on the definition of home students or international students can be found here.

Key regulations regarding the studentship and the full range of benefits attached to the award can be found here.

The stipend follows the UKRI stipend rate (£18,622 per annum in 2023/2024) plus London weighting of £2,000 per annum.

In the funding section, please tick box 5 and include the following reference: SS-ESRC-PPM-24.

Enquiries email name and address:

PGR Education Support Team: [Email Address Removed]

Application Web Page:

Read more about the project:

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 About the Project