Spatial creaming and parking? The case of the UK Work Programme

Whitworth, A. (2021) Spatial creaming and parking? The case of the UK Work Programme. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 14 (1). pp. 135-152. (

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Public policies are inherently spatial in nature yet their geographical dimensions remain frequently underdeveloped and marginalised in policy practice and scholarship. This paper reflects critically on these common spatial blind spots, using as its case study example the UK's Work Programme employment support policy. Whilst social 'creaming' (i.e. deliberate prioritisation) and 'parking' (i.e. deliberate neglect) by providers of differently placed service users within public policies is widely acknowledged and researched, this paper introduces to the literature equivalent but neglected risks around spatial creaming and parking of differently positioned local areas. The paper's framing identifies that the Work Programme's particular treatment of place exposes areas to high risks of spatial creaming and parking. Building on these critical spatial foundations, the paper moves on to present sophisticated statistical analyses of official and comprehensive Work Programme data. These original analyses demonstrate systematic spatial inequality in outcomes and financial resource that are at the expense of already more deprived geographies and that are consistent with our spatial creaming and parking hypotheses. The paper highlights the need to consider more fully the role of place within public policy practice and scholarship.