Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Responsibilising recovery: Lone and low-paid parents, Universal Credit and the gendered contradictions of UK welfare reform

an article by Ruth Cain (University of Kent, Canterbury, UK) published in British Politics Volume 11 Issue 4 (December 2016)


Universal Credit is a new benefits delivery system designed to streamline UK benefits and tax credits and encourage work.

This paper examines Universal Credit’s effect on lone parent and low-paid households. Lone mothers, identified as a moral and financial risk, face conditionality which ignores barriers to employment. Universal Credit also extends conditionality to lower-paid workers and their families. It encodes contradictory gendered messages.

While individual parental responsibility is increasingly socially and legally emphasised, unemployed or low-paid parents may be forced to spend minimal time with children under threat of sanctions or workfare.

Universal Credit demonstrates a clash between market-liberal economic ideals of labour flexibility, and conservative valorisations of the good mother and (married/heteronormative) family, enhanced by ‘recovery’ discourses of thrift and responsibilisation.

This paper argues that such moral/economic incoherence will penalise ‘workless’ and ‘part-workless’ citizens who cannot fulfil neoliberal ideals of the private, self-sufficient family unit in hostile economic conditions.

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