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Abandonment, abjectification, activation and responsibilisation: experiences of the shift towards universal conditionality within the Welsh homelessness system following the Housing (Wales) Act 2014

England, Edith 2020. Abandonment, abjectification, activation and responsibilisation: experiences of the shift towards universal conditionality within the Welsh homelessness system following the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014, introduced amid rising homelessness internationally, required Welsh local authorities to provide (nearly) all homeless and soon-to-be homeless applicants with timely, meaningful help. Prior to the Act, a minority considered particularly at risk from homelessness were afforded a globally near-unique right to state-provided housing. However, most received minimal help, generating increasing concern for their welfare. The Act also introduced a fundamental legislative shift in the state-citizen relationship, with provision of assistance becoming conditional upon the applicant’s ongoing co-operation. Further, the Act functions as part of the wider neoliberal paternalistic welfare state, embedding reliance upon Britain’s competitive, deregulated, private housing market. This thesis explores this shift to universal conditionality in a homelessness context, reporting upon interviews with 98 actors within the Welsh homelessness system, analysed using a Foucauldian lens. The central argument advanced is that, while homelessness relief in Wales now incorporates many hallmarks of a classic workfare approach, conditionality itself is reluctantly and imperfectly enacted. This rests upon three central claims. First, the new Act relies upon the twin discourses of moralism and pragmatism, yet is complicated by care. Second, deployment of spatialised bureaucracy created spaces in which power is not only visibilised but, consequently, contested and negotiated. Third, the new Act must be understood within a broader context of citizen activation, in which homeless citizens are governed through a proposed failure to adopt a homo economicus subjectivity. This thesis demonstrates, therefore, the utility of a discourse-based approach to exploring modern systems of poverty governance, and particularly the importance of including frontline workers and applicants themselves in production and evaluation of legislation. It further provides evidence of complex actor subjectivities: workers were found to be liminal, ambivalent and pragmatic, and often motivated by care, while applicants adeptly navigated repurposed narratives of deservedness and abjectivity to advantage themselves in the system.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Homelessness ; responsibilisation; neoliberal paternalism ; empowerment ; care ethics ; performativity; street level bureaucracy; Foucault; territorial stigmatization; governmentality
Funders: Cardiff University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 February 2021
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2022 02:30
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/138702

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