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Universal credit, Lone mothers and poverty: Some context and challenges for social work with children and familiesUniversal Credit is a streamlined benefits delivery system initially introduced in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2008. Conditionality-based welfare policies are increasingly international in scale, and are now widely adopted by neoliberal governments on the basis that paid employment offers the most efficacious route out of poverty for citizen-subjects. Numerous studies suggest otherwise, and highlight their negative impact upon the social rights, lived experiences, and attempts to alleviate poverty for service users. This article analyses the reformed benefit system and wider workfare policies effect upon lone mothers, including as a consequence of engagement with an ever more stigmatizing benefit system, and associated risks posed by sanctions or precarious low-paid employment. It highlights some of the consequences for social work with children and families of Universal Credit: including ongoing tensions and challenges created for the profession by the punitive policies of the workfare-orientated centaur state.
Universal credit, lone mothers and poverty: some ethical challenges for social work with children and familiesThis article critically evaluates and contests the flagship benefit delivery system Universal Credit for lone mothers by focusing on some of the ethical challenges it poses, as well as some key implications it holds for social work with lone mothers and their children. Universal Credit was first introduced in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2008, and echoes conditionality-based welfare policies adopted by neoliberal governments internationally on the assumption that paid employment offers a route out of poverty for citizens. However, research evidence suggests that the risks of conditionality polices for lone parents can often include increased poverty, a deterioration in mental health or even destitution posed by paternalistic sanctions or precarious low-paid employment, which can undermine parenting capacities and children’s well-being. The article also critically appraises and questions challenges posed by an increased reliance upon contractual ethics by governments, alongside the wider behaviour modifying policies of the workfare-orientated state. This includes that working-class lone mothers can erroneously be stigmatised as representing a morally challenged dependent burden through activation policies and risk-averse social work practices.