Informal mechanisms of support
and conditionality in intensive
family-based interventions:
influencing behaviour change of
vulnerable families
HSA Early Careers
Tuesday 15th April 2014
Emily Ball
Presentation Structure
• The main themes;
-Welfare reform and Conditionality
- The problem of lone parent families
-Crime and Anti-social Behaviour
-Interventions through Troubled Families
Programme and social housing
• Why is this interesting?
• Theories of governmentality
• Methods
• Questions
New Labour and Coalition consensus
on welfare reform and conditionality
• Welfare reform problematized in political agenda due
to concerns about high public expenditure on social
security and the ‘dependency culture’ being on
benefits creates
• Symbolism of social assistance has shifted from being
about insurance for vulnerable people to being about a
paternalistic mechanism to push recipients to adhere
to social values and be responsible citizens
• This has justified conditionality and contractualism of
welfare entitlement to incorporate a larger range of
previously vulnerable groups- this include lone parents
Why does it matter- re-visiting the old
Of two million lone parent families in the UK, 92% are headed by women with 91%
of lone parents not sharing child care responsibilities equally with their children(s)
other parent (Gingerbread, 2012)
Debates about lone motherhood and social assistance is historically contingent
and constantly shifts between deserving and undeserving discourses (see Lewis,
Mothers have received special attention because of their low employment rates
and high levels of poverty, social housing tenancies and welfare reliance- the
answer out of poverty is work
This is used as a basis to link government claims about single parents,
unemployment and crime which is sensationalised to validate a rise in the
‘underclass’- a social problem where the benefits system makes claimants idle,
reliant and not responsible role models for their children. This has consequences
for society where single parents’ worklessness is a social threat rather than a lived
Public support through anti-welfare populism where discourses of welfare
dependency, criminality and single parenthood means single mothers are
represented as being over-committed to their children or using childcare as an
excuse to avoid paid employment in addition to benefits being overly generous.
Criminalising single mums
Losing the labels link (Gingerbread)
• The perceived problem as a precondition to delinquency also feeds
into government ideologies of what
has ‘broken’ Britain;
1)Absence of father figure from the
home of the child committing ASB
2) Perceived inability of maternal care to
discipline delinquent children offered in
these homes
3) Those who commit crime are
emblematic of contemporary societysingle parent families, drugs, sexual
deviancy, hooliganism, all negative
(Photo source: of a broken home and marital
discord (Young, 1996)
Tackling welfare dependency- and how
this links to single mums
• The problem of welfare dependency was to be
combatted by New Labour and the Coalition by
making receipt of welfare benefits conditional
• It was anticipated this could be achieved through
behaviouralist discourses to promote responsible
and positive behaviour
• This has translated into citizenship and social
responsibility discourses through housing
tenancies, employment status and effective
Mechanisms of control- demand for
disciplined tenants
• Conditional Housing policy through the Housing
Act 2004
• Control ‘deviance’ through surveillance and
uncertainty of social housing tenancies,
instruments such as parenting orders, anti-social
behaviour orders being widely available and
quicker routes to eviction and repossession
• Can classify certain households (i.e. social
housing) but also the individuals within these,
making single mothers the most vulnerable to
eviction and to be governed
Mechanisms of control- demand for
disciplined tenants
• Troubled Families Programme at the point of eviction
• Troubled families are referred for family interventions when they qualify
for three out of the four following criteria;
-involvement in ASB
-have children not in school
-have an adult on out of work benefits
-cause high costs to the public purse
• Single female parents would often qualify for two out of four of the
criteria without actually having to be involved in any sort of ASB
• Key worker model and referrals to other services and agencies
• Appears banal but when pieced together can exert social control over
problem people using resources of multiple agencies
• Deep seated emotional and physical problems- acknowledgement of
complex social fabric?
• Is conditionality effective?
Conditionality or social justice?
• Law court procedures often have a gender gaze- ASB as a gendered issued
can be exposed when scrutinising ASB possession orders. In 2/3 cases,
where it has reached court, the woman is not the perpetrator but was still
held responsible and was still expected to take responsibility- it is mostly
males that get ASBOs but women are more likely to be evicted
• Blamed for raising criminals rather than citizens through neglecting
responsibilities as a mother and penalised with reduced access to housing,
employment and state benefits.
• “lone parent woman as being feckless and wilfully responsible for the
poverty in which she is confined to live and thus undeserving of either
public sympathy or economic support” (Phoenix, 1996; 175) justifies
material sanctions and refocusing of her rights.
• Claims for more parental authority, parental support in children’s health
and education and higher labour participation rates.
• Too many unnecessary bargaining tools used against lone mothers on
benefits- which is de-gendered in economic and housing policy but not degendered in the domestic and legal spheres- civilly helpless.
Aims, theory and methods
To critically consider the changing conditional nature of pastoral interventions in relation to
housing and anti-social behaviour and the impacts on lone parents as a vulnerable group
caught between identities of motherhood, employment and poverty
Governmentality and theories of power which invite the law into family life in order to
engineer the sovereignty of the traditional family through the blurring of law, social services
and gendered rhetoric. Resistance by single parents is therefore difficult when facing legal
court procedures. Or employment These continuities in the law in traditional and gendered
visions of the family leave single parents civilly helpless in the governance of the rational
Qualitative approach using in-depth interviews with families involved at different stages of
the troubled families programme, key workers and practitioners
Histories of dependence on welfare, participation in the programme, experiences of
sanctioning, any difficulties, impacts on the expectations of work in regards to childcare and
family life, physical and emotional health and coping strategies to deal with balancing work
and care.
What happened when these ideologies met the subjects- how they were lived and contested
• Thank you for listening
• I would value any problems you see with my
research, how to move towards developing
my research questions and any studies I
should be aware of.

PowerPoint Presentation - Housing Studies Association