Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite

Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite is a Birmingham Fellow in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology. Her research interests focus on poverty and inequality, foodbank use, and welfare reform, with a particular focus on stigma.


  • PhD Human Geography
  • MA Social Research Methods (Social Policy)
  • BA Sociology 

All at Durham University.


Kayleigh uses ethnographic, longitudinal, and qualitative methods of data collection to study issues around poverty, inequality, welfare reform, and stigma. She has been working in these areas since 2008 when she was a Research Assistant at Teesside University, working with Professor Tracy Shildrick, Professor Rob MacDonald, and Professor Colin Webster. 

Prior to working at the University of Birmingham, Kayleigh was based in the Department of Geography at Durham University (2009-2017). She led a Work Package on ethnography of health inequalities in contrasting areas of Stockton-on-Tees as part of the ‘Local Health Inequalities in an Age of Austerity project’ funded by the Leverhulme Trust (PI Professor Clare Bambra, Newcastle University). The research was carried out over a 4 year period, and the most recent findings are currently being analysed and written up.

Kayleigh is the author of ‘Hunger Pains: life inside foodbank Britain’ (2016, Policy Press), winner of the 2017 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize, which is based on 18 months of ethnographic data collected in a Trussell Trust foodbank. She is also co-author of ‘Poverty and insecurity: Life in 'low-pay, no-pay' Britain’ (Policy Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize. 

Public engagement is an important part of Kayleigh’s work. She regularly gives talks about her research in various non-academic settings and has appeared in the broadcast media. She has contributed written and oral evidence to a range of different government bodies, including a Select Committee into Benefit Sanctions, Select Committee on Benefit Delivery, and the APPG on Health in All Policies. Kayleigh has also produced briefings for several cross-party MPs based on ‘Hunger Pains’. 

As well as publishing in peer-reviewed journal articles, she also writes for a range of different outlets such as The Guardian, Huffington Post, and the New Statesman. 

Kayleigh is currently interested in what we can learn from the US and Canada in terms of their history of charitable food provision, and was recently awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to carry out this work. She is also working with Mark Monaghan and Jo Ingold (University of Leeds) on a project examining the narratives of ex-Department for Work and Pensions staff. Kayleigh is also co-organising a seminar series funded by The Sociological Review Foundation on ‘Welfare imaginaries constructing rhetoric, realities and resistance over time’.


Kayleigh currently co-convenes the following undergraduate module:

  • Social Research Methods 1 (First year)

Postgraduate supervision

Kayleigh supervises several students including:

  • Chloe Alexander, Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, University of Birmingham
  • Amy Greer Murphy Department of Geography, Durham University)
  • Kate Haddow, School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law, Teesside University

Other activities

  • Member of Social Policy Association
  • Member of British Sociological Association
  • Editorial board member of Journal of Social Policy
  • Trustee of Independent Food Aid Network
  • Member of Oxfam UK Poverty Policy Advisory Group
  • Member of Trussell Trust ‘State of Hunger’ Advisory Board


Garthwaite, K. and Bambra, C. (2017) “How the other half live”: Lay perspectives on health inequalities in an age of austerity. Social Science & Medicine, 187, pp. 238-275.

Garthwaite, K. (2017) Rethinking deservingness, choice and gratitude in emergency food provision. Social Policy Review 29: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2017, p.87.

Garthwaite, K., 2017. ‘I feel I'm Giving Something Back to Society’: Constructing the ‘Active Citizen’and Responsibilising Foodbank Use. Social Policy and Society, 16(2), pp.283-292.

Geiger, B.B., Garthwaite, K., Warren, J. and Bambra, C., 2017. Assessing work disability for social security benefits: international models for the direct assessment of work capacity. Disability and Rehabilitation, pp.1-9.

Garthwaite, K. (2016) Hunger Pains: life inside foodbank Britain. Bristol: Policy Press.

Garthwaite, K. (2016) Stigma, shame and ‘people like us’: an ethnographic study of foodbank use in the UK. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 24, 3, pp. 277-289.

Garthwaite, K., Smith, K.E., Bambra, C. and Pearce, J., 2016. Desperately Seeking Reductions in Health Inequalities: Perspectives of UK researchers on past, present and future directions in health inequalities research. Sociology of health & illness, 38(3), pp.459-478.

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