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The treadwheel of welfare: A narrative exploration of sole mothers’ experiences of accessing support from the Aotearoa/New Zealand welfare system

Neoliberal ideology has been the dominant political and economic underpinning of the Aotearoa/New Zealand social welfare system for the past forty years. The main neoliberal principles of individual responsibility, free markets, equal opportunity, minimal government interference, and economic prioritisation have seen the erosion of social support systems over the last four decades. State welfare retrenchment, austerity, and increased behavioural conditionality have adversely impacted the wellbeing, health, and potential thriving of sole mothers and their children who require assistance. This research was undertaken utilising social constructionist and community psychology paradigms, focusing on contextual macro factors that have intimate impacts on the everyday lives of sole mothers’ lived experiences. Ethical and theoretical underpinnings of the Treaty of Waitangi/Tiriti o Waitangi principles, ecological perspectives, a social justice lens, and the praxis of diversity were applied to explore notions of stigma, shame, citizenship, and the motherhood/out-of-home work paradox. Case study engagements with two participants, Lucy and Rose, were the qualitative methods used to explore the knowledge and experience from those with unique first-hand knowledge of the welfare system. Collaborating with those at the coal face of oppression and marginalisation have revealed structural accounts that challenge the current dominant narrative of individual blame and responsibility for those experiencing hardships. To go beyond surface understandings of participant stories, an in-depth interpretive narrative and phenomenological analysis was employed to make visible the structural institutions that promote and maintain the economic, material, social, psychological, emotional, and physical hardship of sole mother welfare recipients. Challenging the status quo with participant narratives and academic literature, is intended to contribute to a broader understanding of the welfare system and its impacts on the everyday lives of those who require assistance during times of need. In the process, this research reverses the current preoccupation with welfare recipients as being flawed and in need of modification, to highlight that in effect the system is flawed and in need of systemic modification.
Type of thesis
Wade, N. (2020). The treadwheel of welfare: A narrative exploration of sole mothers’ experiences of accessing support from the Aotearoa/New Zealand welfare system (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14100
The University of Waikato
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