"Welcome to my life" : the experiences of single mothers who are the recipients of multiple state provided benefits
Cumming, Sara J.
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Abstract This research takes the lens of social reproduction as a starting point for an examination of the effects of recent social welfare reforms on the lives o.fsingle mothers. As the cumulative effects o.f diminishing state provided benefits take hold, tensions are heightened as single mothers internalize the insecurity of earning an income in 11 capitalist labour market, while trying to carry out all that is involved in social reproduction with inadequate means of survival. Through interviewing single mothers who are the recipients of mUltiple state provided benefits (social assistance, student loans, subsidized housing and subsidized childcare), this thesis illuminates the cOl1linued regulation of women in an effort to assure that social reproduction is occurring at the lowest cost possible. State provided benefits are set lip in such a way that it is near impossible for single mothers to make ends meet without entering the labour force or entering into co-residential relationships. This push towards the labour force and/or marriage via punitive welfare policies illuminates the devaluation of the labour that is done at home. Through interviewing 5 single mothers, I will demonstrate the extensive labour that goes into maintaining their households. In addition .J case managers are interviewed. The employees of social assistance, subsidized hOllsing, subsidized childcare and student loans, have much agency in deeming who is worthy of receiving benefits. The employees of these agencies have the ability to make these women's lives easier or more complicated by how the workers interpret the policy regulations. Social policies are of paramount importance in the quest for women's equality and thus have consequences for how women's daily lives are organized. The rules and regulations that govern the individual policies are complex and bureaucratic and have implications for the ways in which women must organize their lives in order to survive. The shifts in social policy have been guided by neo-liberal assumptions with a focus on individual responsibility and a market-modeled welfare state. The caring work that is involved in raising children to be productive in a capitalist society is ignored or devalued in current policies. The emphasis in each polic.:v is on getting women who receive benefits into the paid work force, with little facilitation or investment into the caring work these women do on a daily basis that in turn supports capitalism. Policies, such as social assistance, subsidized housing, subsidized childcare and student loans, are set up in such a way that ignores the reality of women's day-to-day lives and devalues the necessary work done at home. It takes an abundance of labour and strategizing for women to seek out necessary means of survival, labour that is amplified when a woman is dealing with mUltiple slate provided benefits.