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- Author or Editor: Joe Whelan x
Underpinned by the idea of the right to a ‘basic minimum’, welfare states are a major feature of many societies. However, the lived experiences of persons seeking and receiving welfare payments can often be overlooked.
This book seeks to remedy this omission by honouring lived experience as valuable, insightful and necessary. It draws on qualitative interviews with 19 people receiving various working age welfare payments in Ireland to explore stigma, social reciprocity and the notions of the deserving and undeserving poor, and to analyse welfare conditionality in the Irish context.
Breaking new ground, this book offers original research findings which contest and inform policy both within Ireland and beyond.
This chapter places the Irish welfare state in context by tracing its development from the 1920s through to the present day. Comparisons between the Irish welfare state and the welfare states of other jurisdictions are offered. The policy trajectory of Irish welfare policy is traced and the Pathways to Work policy suite is offered as a case study. Finally, Ireland as a welfare state is positioned as being a hybrid model with strong liberal tendencies. The overarching purpose of this chapter is to contextualise the lived experiences which are documented in chapters further on.
This chapter begins the process of explicating the empirical materials that underpin much of the rest of the book. In doing so, it shows how a reliance on welfare as a primary strand of income can lead to experiences of marginality and material disadvantage. Coupled with this, it shows how welfare recipients can find themselves in a socially liminal ‘space’ that seems at once to be outside and in-between. Moreover, this chapter illustrates how life in this ‘space’ can consist of experiences of poverty and material disadvantage, a loss of autonomy and control, and a sense of not being able to take part in society along with feelings of social demotion.
This chapter focuses on the effects of the work ethic. The work ethic is conceptualised as an objective social force that can be deeply felt by people who are seen to contravene or be at odds with the normative ideal of work as a marker of social value and self-worth. Through the presentation of empirical materials, the chapter illustrates how ideas about work and idleness are often first introduced in close familial settings. It also shows how people in wider social circles encounter ideas about work, social value and self-worth, and how ideas about work and the work ethic are threaded through the Irish welfare system and encountered by welfare recipients at all stages and across payment types.
This chapter covers experiences of welfare conditionality within the Irish welfare system. Welfare conditionality is conceptualised as ‘where you have to go and what you have to do’ to both realise and maintain a welfare payment. Drawing on rich empirical materials, the chapter shows how welfare conditionality can be experienced as both overt and obvious in some instances and subtle and insidious in others. It is also shown how welfare conditionality forms part of the experiences of welfare recipients across payment types. Ultimately, the empirical material presented here illustrates how aspects of welfare conditionality characterise the experiences of welfare recipients in ways that can often be overwhelming and deleterious to well-being.
This chapter shows how welfare recipients manage the part of their identity associated with welfare in both everyday and formal administrative contexts. In everyday contexts it is shown how this is a complex process, with different welfare recipients employing different strategies that range from openness about a reliance on welfare to a tendency to keep it hidden. The importance of context is demonstrated in the way that welfare recipients are shown to be careful about revealing the part of their identity associated with welfare receipt. This chapter also shows how welfare recipients manage impressions and information when engaging with welfare administrators, demonstrating a tendency for welfare recipients to engage in both disguised compliance and partial non-compliance in order to ‘keep a hold’ of ostensibly scarce resources.
This chapter shows how welfare recipients grapple with questions of deservingness both broadly and in personal contexts in self-reflective ways. Through a thorough exposition of the data, it is shown that this aspect of welfare recipiency is incredibly complex and can hinge on ideas about social reciprocity and the notion of ‘taking while not giving’. It is also shown that welfare recipients can tend to justify their own receipt by questioning the deservingness of others and that this has a tendency to manifest in the practice of othering. The practice of othering is shown to range from something very overt and strong, often targeting specific groups, to something that is vague and assumptive. Ultimately, the data presented in this chapter show the psychosocial complexity that can underpin life in the welfare ‘space’.
An overarching chapter and the final chapter presenting empirical material from the study that forms the centrepiece of the book, this chapter explores the idea that ‘welfare’, as a social good, has come to be thought of as something inherently bad or even deviant. It is suggested that because of this negative association welfare recipients themselves are often tainted by proxy, both psychologically and socially. This chapter brings together many of the themes visited in previous chapters in a way that concludes the empirical section of the book.
This chapter breaks with the study that underpins the bulk of the book and offers a look at some data that emerged from a separate study conducted to capture experiences of welfare recipiency in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also contrasts welfare responses from across several jurisdictions. With respect to the data, the chapter shows that after an initial period where strong welfare responses were largely welcomed, both publicly and politically, many of the themes seen in earlier chapters of this book remain present and are repeated. However, it also shows that at times of great social and economic crisis, people generally welcome and even expect a strong welfare response. Ultimately, this chapter raises questions about the ‘doing’ of welfare in the face of potential future crises.
This chapter concludes the book by offering some final thoughts. In doing so, the concept of a ‘stigma of public burden’, which has a tendency to attach to welfare and welfare states, is discussed. By first making the argument that ideas about how to ‘do’ welfare in a way that is progressive and inclusive have never been lacking in the Irish example, the chapter offers some thoughts about what a welfare state based on citizenship and inclusivity might comprise. It also argues for the importance of welfare as a social good on the basis of potential crises to come. Ultimately, it argues that reimagining welfare is primarily a job for social policy, which should seek to guide sociological experiences. It also suggests that how we think and talk about welfare plays a crucial role in how welfare, as a social good, is framed.