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The Covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom: Social policy, politics and impact

du 29 septembre 2022 au 30 septembre 2022
International and pluridisciplinary conference


The Covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom: Social policy, politics and impact

Deadline : 
Please send a 300-word abstract for each individual or joint paper before February 28th 2022 to the following addresses: and  along with a short bio. The abstract should mention key references, methodology, the research hypothesis at stake and/or the main results.

As Joseph Stiglitz wrote in 2020,
 “Covid is not an equal opportunity killer” (1). Since it started in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has indeed progressed swiftly all over the world, having had rapid and dramatic sanitary, social and economic consequences on populations. On the Old Continent, the pandemic hit hard several countries as early as Spring 2020, notably Italy, France, Spain and the UK. The latter held for a while the sad world record of the highest Covid death rate per million inhabitants. By mid July 2021, the country was ranked 20th for Covid-related deaths, worse than France’s or Germany’s track record, but better than Hungary’s, Belgium’s or Italy’s (2). On the other hand, more than half the UK adult population was fully vaccinated at a time when most other Western countries were lagging behind (51.8% against 44.3% in Germany and 38.3% in France for example) (3). Nevertheless, the number of cases was going up again because of the Delta variant. All these elements are subject to ebbs and flows and show that as Covid-19 has become a lasting phenomenon, pandemic-management policy is likewise shifting, uneven and in constant need of improvement.

The pandemic is also characterized, in the UK, by the magnifying effect it has had on inequalities, including but not limited to those based on class, race, gender or age. It has hit those with the most precarious health and lives the hardest – including those who cannot work from home and those who live in overpopulated areas and overcrowded homes. In the face of the potentially devastating impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable, as well as on British society in general, the British government has implemented a range of more or less ground-breaking measures, both in the health sector and in other areas of the welfare state.

In housing for instance, a new policy aimed at rehousing all homeless people (Everyone In) was announced in March 2020 and has made it possible to take 90% of homeless people off the streets and offer secure accommodation to some 37,000 people (4). In March 2020, still, a moratorium on private sector rents was speedily introduced for six months but was extended until May 2021. In terms of employment policy, between March 1st, 2020 and May 21st, 2021, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) supported 11.5 million furloughed workers to the tune of £64 billion (5). In education, the government commissioned private companies to supply free school meals to pupils from low-income families, and to mitigate their learning loss following the lockdowns (6) (7). In healthcare, there has logically been a flurry of announcements, programmes and measures aiming at fighting the pandemic. The most prominent of these include the Track and Trace programme from April 2020, the launch of the NHS Covid-19 app in May 2020 and the vaccination programme that started in December 2020 (8). The decision-making and implementation processes surrounding these policies have mainly taken place at the level of the nations as healthcare is a devolved matter in the UK.

In this context, this international and pluridisciplinary conference focuses on British social policy, that is to say on Covid-related public policy as well as on the political questions it cannot be separated from. What has been the impact of the pandemic on inequalities based on class, race, gender or age and to what extent have these been mitigated or worsened by government action? More specifically, which policies have been implemented to counter the progress of the pandemic and its social and economic consequences? Can they be regarded as breaking from or building on pre-pandemic priorities and policies? To what extent has the British government coordinated its action with that of other countries, including neighbouring EU countries in a post-Brexit context? On a different scale, to what extent has the British government consulted and acted with the devolved governments and local authorities? What are the different and convergent choices that these administrations have made in their effort to battle Covid?

This conference follows on from a 2015 conference on inequalities in the UK organised by CREW and PLEIADE (9). The 2022 Conference builds on the collaborative work of a group of researchers from different research units, including PLEIADE, CREW, IMAGER, CAS and CECILLE. Most of them belong to a group specialising in the analysis of British social policies (Groupe de Recherches et d'Analyses des Politiques Sociales Britanniques, GRASP) (10). The main 2022 conference convenor is Anémone Kober-Smith who specialises in health and healthcare policy.

The conference aims at bringing together French and British researchers working on the welfare state and social and health inequalities, and at fostering new collaborations.

We welcome paper proposals on a broad range of subjects, including:

- The impact of the pandemic on spatial, social and health inequalities along class, gender, race and age lines (among others);

- The role of the State in battling the pandemic, the scope of social policy, new actors and their role;

- Governmental action in the face of the pandemic: stakes, strategies, actions, new alleys, outcomes;

- Pandemic management on different government scales (national, regional, local): articulations, interactions, alliances, oppositions, evolutions over time;

- The impact of the pandemic on institutions and sectors of the welfare state, not least on the National Health Service;

- The issue and consequences of the partial/total privatization of public intervention domains in the face of the pandemic, such as the Test and Trace programme and the vaccination campaign;

- Opposition to government policy (dissenting scientific experts, anti-lockdown movement, anti-mask movement, antivax campaigns, etc.);

- Insight from the British crisis management strategy, including in a comparative perspective.

 This international and pluridisciplinary conference will take place in Paris (Centre des Colloques, Campus Condorcet, Aubervilliers), on Thursday 29th and Friday 30th September 2022. Papers can be presented in English or in French. A publication project will ensue.

Please send a 300-word abstract for each individual or joint paper before February 28th 2022 to the following addresses: and  along with a short bio. The abstract should mention key references, methodology, the research hypothesis at stake and/or the main results.

Organising Committee:

Anne Beauvallet (Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès), Clémence Fourton (Sciences Po, Lille), Sabrina Juillet-Garzon (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord), Anémone Kober-Smith (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord), Corinne Nativel (Université Paris Est Créteil), Rose-May Pham Dinh (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord).

Scientific Committee:

Anne Beauvallet (Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès), Stéphanie Condon (INED), Paul Copeland (Queen Mary University, Londres), Daniel Edmiston (University of Leeds), David Fée (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle), Clémence Fourton (Sciences Po, Lille), Anémone Kober-Smith (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord), Mhairi Mackenzie (University of Glasgow), Gemma Moss (University College London), Corinne Nativel (Université Paris-Est Créteil), David Robinson (University of Sheffield).


(1) Stiglitz, Joseph, Evaluating the US policy response to Covid-19, May 2020, INET.

(2) Our World in Data. (14th July 2021)

(3) Our World in Data.

(4) HCLG, Protecting the Homeless and the Private Rented Sector: MHCLG’s response to Covid-19

(5) Powell, Andy & Francis-Devine, Brigid, “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: statistics”, House of Commons Library Research Briefing 9152, 4 June 2021

(6) Edenred, Comptroller and Auditor General, Investigation into the free school meals voucher scheme, National Audit Office, December 2020.

(7) Roberts, John, “Catch-up tutoring to be led by private outsourcing firm”, TES, 2 June 2021.

(8) Calnan, Michael, “Health policy and controlling Covid-19 in England: Sociological insights”, Emerald Open Research, 2020, 2, 40




Type :
Colloque / Journée d'étude, Appel à communication
Contact :;
Lieu(x) :
Centre des Colloques, Campus Condorcet 
Partenaires :
Organized by PLEIADE (UR 7338, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord- USPN) with the collaboration of
- IMAGER (UR 3958, Université Paris Est Créteil- UPEC),
- CREW (UR 4399, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle),
- CAS (UR 801, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès),
- CECILLE (UR 4074, Université de Lille),
- GRASP (Groupe de Recherches et d’Analyses des Politiques Sociales Britanniques).

mise à jour le 4 février 2022