Economist and public policy researcher
Thursday 20 January 2005
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.
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
South Korea ferry disaster: Released transcripts show chaos and confusion in the moments before ferry sinks
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
South Korea ferry disaster: Families watch as remains of Sewol victims returned to shore
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
- 1 Jose Mourinho: Graceless reaction of Chelsea manager a sad effort to hide his own flaws
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...