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  • Author or Editor: Kate Andersen x
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The benefit cap and the two-child limit were both introduced with the aim of promoting fairness. However, women are disproportionately affected by both of these polices. This article presents new empirical evidence that demonstrates the gendered impacts of the benefit cap and the two-child limit on mothers. It shows that the benefit cap and the two-child limit ignore the gendered reasons for women’s disproportionate subjection to the policies, devalue unpaid care, fail to recognise gendered barriers to paid work and ultimately, harm women in a wide range of ways, particularly by further entrenching them in poverty.

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Mothers’ Experiences of the Conditionality within Universal Credit
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For generations women have experienced disadvantage in the paid labour market, the devaluation of their unpaid caring roles and multiple constraints on their agency.

This book analyses fresh empirical evidence which demonstrates the gendered impacts of the new conditionality regime within Universal Credit. It shows how the regime affects women's unpaid caring roles, their position in the paid labour market and their agency regarding engagement in unpaid care and paid work. Ultimately, it highlights the impacts on low-income women's position in the UK social security system and society.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with mothers, this book offers a compelling narrative and crucial policy recommendations to improve the gendered impact of Universal Credit and make the social citizenship framework in the UK more inclusive of women.

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This chapter details gendered aspects of the 1940s welfare reforms and shows how demographics have changed considerably since these reforms were introduced. It also explains that there has also been a shift in the UK social security system’s treatment of women, with increasing expectations of undertaking paid work. Following this, the chapter explains how women’s ongoing disadvantaged position in the social security system is related to the dominant gendered concept of citizenship. It then discusses the difficulties in creating a more gender-inclusive citizenship framework that both promotes paid work and supports unpaid care. The chapter ends by explaining how policies that help develop a more gender-inclusive citizenship framework, with a specific focus on affording women agency, can be implemented.

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This chapter starts by giving a brief overview of Universal Credit and discusses how this new benefit was introduced with the objective of reorienting the benefits system around paid work. It then explains that intensifying and expanding welfare conditionality was integral to this and that, numerically, women are disproportionately affected by the new conditionality regime for lead carers of children. The chapter continues by briefly outlining the history of welfare conditionality in the UK. It then details the new conditionality regime for lead carers within Universal Credit. The chapter ends by presenting concerns raised in the academic and grey literature about the new conditionality regime for lead carers and articulating the need for these concerns to be investigated.

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This chapter presents analysis of the data generated in the qualitative longitudinal fieldwork concerning the effects of the conditionality within Universal Credit on the valuing of unpaid care. The chapter starts by outlining the participants’ caring responsibilities, which shows that the gender balance in unpaid care was strongly evident across the sample. It then explores the limited extent to which the mothers’ caring responsibilities were taken into account when work-related requirements were set and during ongoing interactions with work coaches. The chapter continues by demonstrating the negative effects of the conditionality within Universal Credit on the mothers’ caring responsibilities. After detailing the mothers’ views that unpaid care is devalued within the Universal Credit system, the chapter concludes by discussing how the new conditionality regime within Universal Credit affects the valuing of unpaid care as a valid citizenship contribution.

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This chapter presents analysis of the data concerning the implications of the conditionality within Universal Credit for women’s position in the paid labour market. The chapter starts by outlining the participants’ paid work aspirations and barriers to paid work. It then discusses the difficulties the mothers had in accessing the formal childcare provision within Universal Credit and the lack of employment-related support they received in obtaining paid work. The chapter continues by detailing the participants’ difficulties in trying to meet the work-related requirements of Universal Credit. It then investigates the effects of the conditionality within Universal Credit on the participants’ employment and earnings over time and shows that the conditionality had limited positive impact on the employment trajectories of the mothers. Lastly, this chapter reflects on how the conditionality regime within Universal Credit is of limited efficacy in enabling mothers to obtain citizenship status in its current gendered form.

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This chapter presents analysis of the findings concerning the effects of the conditionality within Universal Credit on mothers’ agency. It details the mothers’ work–care choices and then shows the limited extent to which the participants’ work-related requirements were negotiated. The chapter continues by exploring the mothers’ experiences of compulsion over time and shows that overall, they were subject to high levels of pressure. It also presents the mothers’ views on the compulsion within the Universal Credit conditionality regime. Following this, the chapter investigates the participants’ responses to the compulsion within Universal Credit and the overall impacts of the compulsion on their agency regarding engagement in unpaid care and paid work. The chapter concludes by discussing how the considerable compulsion within the Universal Credit regime further limits women’s ability to exercise agency, thereby failing to promote a more gender-inclusive concept of citizenship.

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This concluding chapter highlights the significance of the negative impacts of the conditionality within Universal Credit on women’s caring responsibilities, their employment trajectories and their agency. The chapter starts by summarising the key findings. It then discusses the implications of the conditionality within Universal Credit for women’s position in the dominant citizenship framework (including the particular implications for coupled women arising from joint claims). It also explains what creating a more gender-inclusive citizenship framework would entail and how social security policies can be implemented to help establish this. The chapter then outlines the arising policy recommendations for the Universal Credit conditionality regime specifically and reflects on how the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has added urgency to implementing the policy recommendations. The chapter concludes by articulating how the conditionality within Universal Credit furthers an androcentric concept of citizenship and highlighting the importance of seeking and incorporating the views of claimants when devising welfare reform.

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This chapter starts by introducing Universal Credit. It then outlines the Universal Credit conditionality regime for lead carers and explains the need to research this policy, particularly in light of pre-existing gender concerns. From there, it explains how Universal Credit has been introduced in the context of gendered austerity welfare reforms. The chapter continues by explaining the motivation for writing the book (including the desire to create awareness of the experiences and views of women affected by welfare reform). It proceeds by detailing how qualitative longitudinal research was employed to explore the impacts of the new conditionality regime on the lives of the participants. Lastly, it provides an overview of the book by giving a summary of each chapter.

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Benefit Changes and Larger Families is a mixed methods, three-year research project investigating the effects of recent welfare reforms on larger families. In this chapter, we bring together new quantitative and qualitative analysis of how families with three or more children living on a low income have experienced the pandemic. Using the Understanding Society Covid Survey and early data from qualitative longitudinal research with larger families affected by the two-child limit and the benefit cap, we investigate the extent to which larger families have had differential experiences of the pandemic. We set these experiences of the pandemic in context against the relative position of larger families on the eve of the pandemic, including recent trends in child poverty among larger families. Finally, we reflect on the significance of the pandemic for narratives of ‘anti-welfare commonsense’ – such as ‘benefit broods’ – that have driven recent policymaking for larger families.

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