Stephen Lissenburgh

Economist and public policy researcher

Stephen Peter Lissenburgh, economist and social scientist: born 30 April 1964; Research Fellow, Policy Studies Institute 1994-97, 1998-2002, Principal Research Fellow and Head of the Employment Group 2002-05; Research Fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research 1997-98; married 1988 Sonali Deraniyagala (two sons deceased); died 26 December 2004.

Stephen Lissenburgh was an economist who, before his early death at the age of 40, made large contributions to British public policy research.

Remarkably, he did not begin his career in this field until the age of 30, when in 1994 he entered the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) on its most junior research grade. Within seven years he was head of a large research group, and up to his death was a key figure in policy evaluations in the field of labour market disadvantage.

Steve Lissenburgh was brought up in the East End of London and attended Little Ilford School, in Manor Park. This background may help to explain the socially committed nature of his career. He was one of a stream of pupils from that comprehensive who went to Cambridge. There, studying Economics at Girton, he gained a reputation for being incredibly clever, and met his wife-to-be and inspiration, Sonali Deraniyagala.

Afterwards he did not follow the well-trodden path into the City, but opted to become a secondary-school teacher, working at schools in deprived inner-city areas. He was also involved in educational projects with Sonali in Sri Lanka. After five years in teaching, he resumed postgraduate studies, taking a master's in Industrial Relations at Warwick, then returning to Cambridge for his doctorate in Economics. His PhD thesis focused on discrimination against women, and innovatively combined economic with sociological methods.

Joining PSI at a time of high unemployment, Lissenburgh's gifts in econometric analysis were soon being used to test the effectiveness of government training programmes. His most important early contribution, however, was a paper, Value for Money, on the costs and benefits of equal rights for part-time workers, which he conjured up on a small grant from the TUC in 1996. Combining multiple data sources, skilful analysis, and argument of transparent clarity, it helped create the climate for New Labour's subsequent sympathetic treatment of this issue. At the same time he continued his work on women's pay, showing that a gender pay gap existed even after allowing for the disadvantaged jobs that women entered.

In 1997, Lissenburgh moved to the Institute for Public Policy Research, where he worked on university-industry knowledge transfer. However, by the end of 1998 he was back at PSI, involved in a variety of projects on unemployment, and producing a steady stream of publications.

From now on, though, it was his personality as much as his technical skills that carried forward his career. There was an inner assurance that led both colleagues and research clients to see him as their rock. In 2000-01 he displayed his people skills in co-ordinating nine co-authors in a complex report on the Government's New Deal. The study, published in 2001 as New Deal for Young People: National Survey of Participants, Stage 2, applied new methods to solve a crucial problem of public policy research - the comparison of multiple programmes - and the way he brought it together and steered it home was one of his most important professional achievements.

Soon after this he was persuaded by his colleagues to head the Employment Group at PSI. Although initially a somewhat reluctant manager, he proved a highly capable one. Unlike many social scientists, Lissenburgh really liked people and found them endlessly interesting and amusing. His appetite for chat and socialising belied an enormous workload, while his growing personal authority did nothing to change his staunchly egalitarian outlook. To all his colleagues, he was their friend.

Despite management responsibilities, Lissenburgh continued with his research, not only on public policy evaluation, but in a variety of smaller collaborative projects on disadvantage: these included studies of older workers and of South Asian women in Britain. In the coming years, he was due to play a key role in two of the largest research projects of the Department for Work and Pensions, concerning employment retention after unemployment, and work assistance for people with disabilities.

Steve Lissenburgh went in December with his family to Sri Lanka, for their usual winter holiday there: his love of that country was obvious to all. He, Sonali, their young sons Vikram and Nikhil, and Sonali's parents were touring on the east coast when the tsunami overcame them. Sonali was the only survivor.

Michael White

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game