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“Not the Normal Mode of Maintenance”: Bureaucratic Resistance to the Claims of Lone Women in the Postwar British Welfare State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018

Abstract

Because of the expansion of the postwar welfare state and its rhetoric of inclusion, the British National Assistance Board (NAB), which provided means-tested relief, faced a dramatic increase in the number of lone women with children claiming assistance in the 1950s and 1960s. In trying to restrict the state's role in social provision, the NAB relied on and tried to extend familial obligations for women's support that had been institutionalized in family law and in the poor law. The largely unsuccessful efforts of the NAB to prevent such women from turning to the welfare state included various forms of persuasion, coercion, and intimidation. Scholars of social policy in the postwar period have called attention to later efforts to discourage applications by lone women between the late 1960s and the 1990s. But the defensive posture against such women was adopted much earlier, in a relatively unexamined portion of the NAB's history. In its early, formative years, the NAB devised new strategies based on the rationales of female dependence that had long been entrenched in family law and the poor law. These methods and rationales became fixed in the postwar bureaucratic repertoire and were later available to bolster gendered attacks on the welfare state itself, particularly those made so aggressively under Thatcherism.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 2004 

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