Need help with a Essay For women and Gender Studies . Attached is a word doc with guidelines for the paper. Also attached some of the readings

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Need help with a Essay For women and Gender Studies . Attached is a word doc with guidelines for the paper. Also attached some of the readings

Need help with a Essay For women and Gender Studies . Attached is a word doc with guidelines for the paper. Also attached some of the readings
AN assignment handout This assignment provides directions for AN-1 What is an AN (Argument Note)? An argument note is written after you have read / viewed, and thought about the arguments and facts put forth – in an academic, intellectual manner – on a given topic. In your AN papers, you are tasked with demonstrating your understanding of the readings / videos I have assigned. In addition to this handout, please read through the section Academic Integrity in the Syllabus. Your AN papers must have these three sections: Summary: Identify and summarize the key argument(s) or main point(s) of the readings. Ask yourself what the author is trying to convince you of and how. Pick three or four of the more important key arguments or points of the reading, and briefly map them, i.e., elaborate their supporting claims; detail how the argument(s) “work.” You are not expected to summarize the entire chapter / video / reading. You must choose 3 items (readings or videos) from the list below, and then summarize 3-4 key points from each of those readings (or videos). The summary section should be given the most space – approximately 2/3 of the paper. Students should not include their own thoughts or reactions to the readings in the Summary. Integration: Use this section to present your own analysis of one or two ideas / issues from your summary. Strive to analyze how and why this condition exists. In this section you must strive to integrate course concepts (i.e. concepts such as patriarchy, power, privilege, gender, feminism, etc..) into your analysis. This section is used to demonstrate your own understanding of the social condition / issue. You should provide support for your analysis as necessary (by citing sources and / or personal experience). Questions/Reactions: Share your reaction to the readings. You can identify questions the readings raise for you. This can also be the place to put your specific questions about the topic. You should discuss your reaction to the content, not the style of the reading. For example, stating that the reading was long / short / complicated / un-interesting etc.. does not provide me with an understanding of your grasp of the material. Do not focus on items that were not discussed in this reading. No one course reading will ever cover all aspects of one topic. For example, pointing out that a reading on women in China did not discuss the situation for women in India, is not a valid point. Stay focused and on topic. What should my AN paper look like? Your final AN paper should be 6-7.5 pages of writing, plus a title page and reference list: Page 1: title page: your name, the course, title, date Pages 2-5: Your Summary section. Next pages: Your Integration section. Last 1-1.5 pages of writing: Your Questions and Reactions section. Final page: Your Reference List. In full APA format. Should my AN papers have an introduction and conclusion? These are not required for AN papers. Your paper can have a brief (1-2 sentence) introduction and conclusion if you like. Can I use headings in my AN papers? Yes. Headings can be used to distinguish the 3 sections (summary, integration and questions/reactions). Headings are optional, but paragraphing is not. Use proper paragraph structure as outlined here: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/paragraphs_and_paragrap hing/index.html How are my AN papers graded? We use the Significance of Letter grades chart (below) to assign a letter grade to your paper. Please review this chart. Numeric grades are based on the bottom of the grade range. i.e. an A is 12/15 a B is 10.5/15, a C is 9/15 and so on. In your paper you must cite the page number (or time stamp) for all direct quotes AND all paraphrasing from all sources. This influences your grade on AN papers, and is part of the policy on academic integrity (i.e. avoiding plagiarism). Your paper must use APA style: 12 pt font, double spacing and 1 inch margins. The APA reference list must include all videos and books / articles cited in your paper. Do I need a citation after every sentence? It is not “wrong” to cite the author and date after each sentence, but it is clunky, and it is not necessary. The purpose of an APA citation, is to tell the reader where the ideas – in a given paragraph – are from. Within each paragraph, it should be clear to the reader whose ideas you are citing. When an entire paragraph is summarizing from one source (i.e. one reading), state this clearly, and provide the citation at the end of the paragraph. You must also provide the page number or timestamp for specific phrases / statements taken from these sources. AN-1 Which items do I choose from for my AN-1 paper this term? For AN-1 – Choose 3 from the following list: 1. Maki, Krys (2021). Chapter 1 “A brief history of welfare surveillance in Ontario” from our textbook “Ineligible: Single mothers under welfare surveillance”. 2. Silliman, J., Fried, M., Ross, L. & Gutierrez, E. (2016). African American Women Evolving. Chapter from the book Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice. (pages 93-108). 3. Bourgeois, S. (2014). Our Bodies are our own: Connecting abortion and social policy. Canadian Review of Social Policy No. 70. https://crsp.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/crsp/issue/view/2131 4. National Film Board of Canada (2012). Status Quo: The unfinished business of feminism in Canada [minutes 32:40 to 58:26, section is on reproductive choice] https://www.nfb.ca/film/status_quo_the_unfinished_business_of_feminism/ 5. Weber, L. (2010). Defining Contested Concepts. (pages 23-43) 6. Canadaland (2022). Abortion rights in Canada didn’t come easy. Podcast episode 778 [46:52 minutes]. https://www.canadaland.com/podcast/778- abortion-rights-in-canada-didnt-come-easy/ How do I get started? Suggested steps for writing AN papers: 1. Read through the directions. If you do not follow the directions, your paper may not be assigned a passing grade. 2. Select your items for your AN paper. 3. Approach your writing as a process: Drafting stage: Draft an outline to sketch out your thoughts. I often suggest that students draft their “Questions and Reaction” section first, as this can help with “writers block”. Papers in this course should use the first person voice because it is an important way that writers acknowledge their subjectivity (their own experiences and observations). In feminist writing this is referred to as your “subject location”. It is a principle in feminism to (re)claim our voice through writing using “I”. Draft your Summary section. Select which ideas from the readings you will quote directly and which ideas you will paraphrase. Keep track of where you are citing from. Cite the page number / timestamp for all direct quotes AND when paraphrasing from any source. After writing your summary, take the time to develop your integration section. The Integration section is where you present your analysis, as described here: https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/summary-vs-analysis 4. Complete your editing sweeps: • The first editing sweep is for idea development. • The next sweep is to edit for paragraph and topic sentence development. • The next sweep is to edit and fix grammar and punctuation errors. • Do a final editing sweep to add any missing citations (in APA you must cite all outside material in-text). Each paragraph in the summary must have in text citations with the author, date and page number. Use the APA info at the OWL Purdue website or an APA Style manual. 5. Submit the final copy of your AN-1 paper on or before the due date.
Need help with a Essay For women and Gender Studies . Attached is a word doc with guidelines for the paper. Also attached some of the readings
Ineligible Ineligible SINGLE MOTHERS UNDER WELFARE SURVEILLANCE KRYS M AKI Fernwood Publishing Halifax & W innipeg Copyright © 2021 Krys Maki All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer , who may quote brief passages in a review . Editing: Jenn Harris Text design: Brenda Conroy Cover design: Jess Koroscil Printed and bound in Canada Published by Fernwood Publishing 32 Oceanvista Lane, Black Point, Nova Scotia, B0J 1B0 and 748 Broadway A venue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3G 0X3 www.fernwoodpublishing.ca Fernwood Publishing Company Limited gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage and T ourism under the Manitoba Publishers Marketing Assistance Program and the Province of Manitoba, through the Book Publishing Tax Credit, for our publishing program. W e are pleased to work in partnership with the Province of Nova Scotia to develop and promote our creative industries for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Title: Ineligible : single mothers under welfare surveillance / Krys Maki. Names: Maki, Krys, author . Description: Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 20210255382 | Canadiana (ebook) 20210255994 | ISBN 9781773634791 (softcover) | ISBN 9781773634944 (EPUB) | ISBN 9781773634951 (PDF) Subjects: LCSH: Public welfare—Ontario. | LCSH: W elfare recipients—Civil rights—Ontario. | LCSH: Low-income single mothers—Civil rights—Ontario. | LCSH: Welfare recipients—Ontario—Social conditions. | LCSH: Low-income single mothers—Ontario—Social conditions. | LCSH: Privacy , Right of—Ontario. | LCSH: Electronic surveillance—Ontario. Classification: LCC HV109.O54 M35 2021 | DDC 361.6086/94709713—dc23 Con te n ts Acknowledgements Acronyms Introduction: W elfare Surveillance, Regulation, and Mothering on the Mar gins The Feminization of Poverty, a “No-Win” Situation Key Concepts and T erms Methods Summary of Book Note 1 A Brief History of W elfare Surveillance in Ontario Surveillance Stitched into the Fabric of the Emerging Social Safety Net Conclusion Notes 2 Mapping the W elfare Surveillance Apparatus Surveillance and Discrimination Technological Surveillance and Regulation Moral Surveillance and Regulation Conclusion Notes 3 Caught in a W eb of Surveillance: Life under the Watchful Eye of Ontario W orks Interviews with Single Mothers on Social Assistance Experiencing W elfare Surveillance Relationships with W elfare Caseworkers Conclusion Notes 4 Expanding the W elfare Surveillance Apparatus: The Family Responsibility Of fice and Child Welfare The Family Responsibility Of fice and Ontario Works The Children’s Aid Society Indigenous Mothers, Surveillance, and Child W elfare Conclusion 5 Social Workers, Financial Advisors, or Authoritarian Overseers?: Caseworkers’ Reflections on W elfare Surveillance Interviewing Frontline Caseworkers New Public Management and Workplace Surveillance How Caseworkers Understand W elfare Surveillance Job Satisfaction and Workplace Health and Safet y Conclusion 6 Counternarratives: Individual and Collective Resistance to Neoliberal W elfare Reforms, Cutbacks, and Surveillance Building Dialogues of Resistance: Counternarratives, Disruptions, and Subversions Notes References Index Ack now le d gem en ts I would first like to acknowledge that the land I live and work on is the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg. Writing this book was a collective effort that germinated from movement work, activist scholarship, and lived experience. This book would not have been possible without the help and support of family , friends, and activists over the years. I am especially grateful for the single mothers who took time to meet with me and share intimate details about what it is like to live under welfare surveillance. I was honoured to be invited into their homes and into their lives and was humbled by their strength, resilience, creativity , and love. During my research, I was fortunate to work with supervisors who understood and fully supported activist scholarship, alternative ways of knowing, and building knowledge that was outside of traditional academic formats. A special thank you to my co-supervisors, Margaret Little and Cathie Krull. Little did I know reading Margaret’ s work in my under grad that I would eventually end up working with her . I have appreciated her mentorship, guidance, and support throughout the completion of this project. A heartfelt thank you to Laureen Snider, who started this journey with me during my master ’s thesis and followed me until the final draft to Fernwood! I am so honoured to have worked with a scholar and friend who helped me grow as a writer and critical thinker and provided endless encouragement and insightful comments. I’ve been thankful to work with incredible editors along the way . While completing my graduate degree, my friend and editor , Scott Uzelman, helped me find my activist scholar voice and gain confidence as a writer . I was fortunate to work with Candida Hadley on the final draft. I am grateful for her patience, enthusiasm, and support for this book. Many thanks to the Fernwood team who brought the book to life. Thank you to the anonymous reviewers who provided constructive feedback on the anal ysis and structure of the book. I’m thankful for the financial support from the SSHRC V anier Canada Graduate Scholarship to conduct this study. During the research, I was involved in anti-poverty and social justice groups that kep t me ground ed and accountable to my work and reminded me of the different ways to share knowledge and ideas outside of the confines of academia. We were not just building movements, we were building lifelong friendships and chosen family — the AKA s oc ial centre where critical thinking, creative resistance, and rad ideas were welcomed; the KCAP folxs (Amy, B, and Mike), who fought tirelessly to push back against injustice. I think fondly of our food shares, action planning, and festive disruptions in the streets. To all the activists from Kingston, Peterborough, and T oronto who supported this project, thank you. I am grateful for the conversations I had with Pat Capponi, who encouraged me to tell my own story and see how my own experiences of poverty shaped this work. May you rest in power . The Instigate 2010: Anti-Poverty Rant-In was one of the highlights during this journey . Cara Fabre, David Thompson, Susan Belyea, and Tara Kainer — thank you for bringing together a free, accessib le, and open community-based and interdisciplinary conference where students, activists, advocates, and artists could exchange ideas and challenge injustice. The love and support I received from family and friends helped me pull through some difficult times. When I was ready to give up, I had some solid people who held space and created a soft place for me to land. To the radicals, misfits, townies, and punks — thanks for being my chosen family and making Kingston a place I call ed home for eight years. My community helped me find freedom and inspiration at Soul Shakedown dance parties, cabarets, backcountry camping, long dog walks, and sharing home-cooked meals. Thank you to my dear friends, near and far: Anne-Marie, Scott U., Charlie, Max, Sarah, Aara, Tracey , Paul, Hazel, Matt, Sayyida, Scott R., Steve, Amanda, Alex, Emily, Aric, Barb, Trina, Donald, Lucia, Julie, Samah, Melissa, Kaitlin, Patricia, QPG , WSC , and my new friends in La Pêc he. David Thompson, my friend and comrade, deserves a special mention for he has offered unwave ring support over the years. His sharp analytical and writing skills were certainly appreciated as he reviewed many drafts and was always up for a good rant! My furry companions, Pickle and Caper , who were often perched on my of fice chair watching me write. And of course, my dog, Olive, who saved me on many occasions by getting me away from my work and into the woods exploring trails. My family kept me grounded and well stocked with free- range eggs and organic veggies. Mom, Guy, Kris, Lindsey , Kira, and Kobe, thank you for all of your support and love over the years and the much-needed distractions at Squirrel Depot. Guy, thank you for our long forest walks, talking politics, and teaching me abou t the different trees and their medicinal properties. And finally , none of this would have been possible without the love and support from my mother . She taught me how to be strong and to stand up for what I believe in. Her fierce determina tion as a young single mother with two children was always an inspiration to me. Thanks , Mom, for getting me out of my head and into the garden, harvesting, canning, preserving, and, of course, all the belly laughs! I am forever grateful for everything she has taught me and her capacity to be both strong and soft — to fight and to love. This book is dedicated my mother and all the other single mothers who are the resilient roots of our communities, families, and movements. Acro n ym s ASI Addiction Services Initiative BTP Business T ransformation Project CAP Canada Assistance Plan CAS Children’ s Aid Society CCPN Common Cause Procurement CERB Canada Emer gency Response Benefit CHPI Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative CHRT Canadian Human Rights T ribunal CHST Canada Health and Social T ransfer CSL Canada Student Loans CSUMB Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit CVP Consolidated V erification Process ERO eligibility review of ficer EVP Eligibility V erification Process FCMS FRO Case Management System FNCFS First Nations Child and Family Services FPE feminist political economy FRO Family Responsibility Of fice HSF Housing Stabilization Fund KCAP Kingston Coalition Against Poverty ICT information communication technologies INAC Indian and Northern Af fairs KCAP Kingston Coalition Against Poverty LICO low-income cut-of f MBM market basket measure MCCSS Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services MECA Maintenance Enforcement Computer Assistance MMIWG missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls NPM new public management OACAS Ontario Association of Children’ s Aid Societies OCAP Ontario Coalition Against Poverty OCB Ontario Child Benefit ODSP Ontario Disability Support Program OPS Ontario Public Service OSAP Ontario Student Assistance Program OW Ontario W orks OWA Ontario W orks Act PA participation agreement SAMS Social Assistance Management System SDA Special Diet Allowance SDMT Service Delivery Model T echnology SPP Special Priority Policy TRC Truth and Reconciliation Commission VA W violence against women IN TR O DUCTIO N : W elf a re S urv eilla n ce, R eg u la tio n , a n d M oth erin g o n t h e M arg in s P overty carries a lot of stigma and shame. Those of us who grew up poor know all too well the creative strategies and diversions we come up with to hide our struggles to fit in. Poverty and being fatherless was something that I felt shame around and spent a lot of ene rgy concealing and avoiding when asked about my homelife . Because I worked so hard at hiding these realities, I did not think that anyone cared about the poor , the struggle, the stigma, the trauma. I was luckier than most. My mother was loving, fun, and full of life despite the multiple jobs she held down as a young single mother raising two kids on her own. When we had to move across the country and leave our life behind and start over, she had few options but to go on welfare until she could get back on her feet. The harshness with which she was judged and treated — including the sting of town gossip and moral judgment specifically because she was single, young, and receiving social assistance — was unyielding. The absence of a husband made her suspected of all kinds of immoral doings , from sleeping around to drug addiction. I knew this because my classmates would taunt and tease me; as a young child, it was humiliating and I internalized this stigma. I carried this pain with me for a long time, hidden deep down, until it was pulled out of me unexpectedly in a lecture hall. I never imagined writing a book about welfare, surveillance, or the re gulation of poor single mothers, especially because it was so close to home, an uncomfortable home from which I had spen t a great deal of my life distancing myself. During my undergraduate degree, I had not come across research or writings on poverty and the experiences of single mothers until my final year for a course on gender and the welfare state. When I first read Pat Capponi’ s Dispatches from the Poverty Line and Margaret Little’s No Car, No Radio, No Liquor Permit I was moved so deeply that I could hardly articulate my thoughts about these readings in my seminars. I found myself having to leave class during documentaries about poverty , especially when it zeroed in on the intersections of family and state violence. In some ways I felt exposed and raw, yet I also felt seen and my experiences validated for the first time as I had not seen struggles of poverty , as well as defiant resistance, from the perspectives of women and single mothers reflected in the course content until then. I was inspired by anti-poverty and feminist writers and thinkers who were committed to exposing the injustice and unearthing the everyday experiences and resistance of what it was like to be poor in a system designed to break us — including those who actually lived it or were embedded in anti-poverty activism. I was called to anti-poverty activism and research because I felt affinity with these women’ s stories and a part of me thought I could heal my own pain by confronting the injustice. A rich body of anti-poverty , feminist, social-legal, and anti-racist research had documented and challenged Ontario’s neoliberal welfare reforms of the 1990s and the impacts on single mothers, yet few had examined the multi-layered welfare surveillance apparatus and the accompanying privatization of social services. Welfare surveillance became my entry point and added a new lens and exploration on the criminalization and stigmatization of poverty in Ontario. When I sat down to interview Marie in my home, I was reminded of the tenacity of single mothers who find creative and necessary means to survive. She shared her past strategies, which would be largely impossible to hide with the sophisticated technologies used by Ontario W orks (OW) today. Marie shared that she was “completely opposed” to surveillance: “instead of the whole belief that you’re innocent until proven guilty … it’s a system where they’re out to prove you guilty .” Prior to the welfare reforms and anti-fraud surveillance technologies of the mid-1990s , she wo rked under the table bartending and waitre ssing. While an under ground service economy still exists today, it is much harder to hide this from welfare authorities, especially if it is not paid in cash, as they can access bank account statements as well as mandatory reporting for any additional income. Additionally , employers can use this to their advantage and leverage it to coerce workers to work longer or do tasks outside of their job descriptions. Tara shared that she faced discrimination as a Black single mother in her unde r-the-table job, which she took to help pay for her medication not covered by the OW drug card. She feared that they would report her to a welfare fraud hotline if she refused unsafe work or additional hours. She had no recourse or workplace protections, and her employer used this to further exploit her. This was a common feeling among the wom en I interviewed: many felt criminal and “bad” for needing financial support following a separation, fleeing abusive situation s, succumbing to illness, loss of employment, or a combination of these life crises. My interviewees shared countless stories of how they felt that very little of their lives escaped the gaze of Ontario Works . Most troubling was how this invasive and penetrating gaze invaded their personal lives, including romantic relationships, where they bought their groceries, how they balanced their budgets, and how they parented. For instance, I interviewed two sisters who shared that they felt that even their sex lives were monitored by welfare. They were worried about how often their partners came over and if the neighbours would “rat them out” to the fraud hotlines. This was further complicated in situations where there was shared custody and parents were doing their best to co-parent. Fiona was shocked that she faced an investigation for welfare fraud after her caseworker found out she had been at a community fair with her ex-h usband and children. Investigations, surveillance, and accusations of fraud made single mothers feel criminal, and they feared for their future and the custody of their children as investigations could trigger the involvement of child welfare authorities (managed by the Children’ s Aid Society). They shared painful examples of how welfare surveillance went beyond the walls of welfare offices and included community surveillance. Even charities like food banks increasingly employ file and electronic surveillance to determine eligibility for basic needs. My study revealed that welfare surveillance has evolved, and home visits and inspections have lar gely been replaced with a much more soph isticated apparatus of surveillance, regulation, and social control. Today , welfare surveillance goes beyond the face-to-face and bureaucratic demands on women to provide constant “proof” that they are deserving. Powerful computer databases initiated in the late 1990s include algorithmic surveillance to weed out allegedly widespread fraud, and this automated system uses risk criteria to alert caseworkers of potential fraud and issues automatic letters to recipients when a file is “red flagged.” Receiving these letters made single mothers’ hearts skip beats, and the threat of financial punishment was experienced as a coercive form of economic violence enacted by the state. The letters threatened to cut off benefits, criminal fraud investigations, and file review for reasons often outside of their control and of which they had been completely unaware. Women felt powerless in the system — as Annie described, “like a puppet on a string.” Policies, and the rules and regulations attached to them, are not neutral; they have real impacts on people’ s lives. The sophisticated surveillance technologies that have evolved are embedded with biases and assumptions about poverty that date back to the earliest state supports for the poor . Over the past decade and countless hours I spent with single mothers, anti- poverty activists, social policy analysts, and caseworkers, I have learned that the welfare surveillance apparatus is purposeful and has wide-reaching social and political consequences for poor people. The criminalization of poverty , the ever-shrinking welfare state, the privatization of social services, discrimination, and social exclusion are just some of the man y ways that welfare surveillance impacts low-income communities. I undertook this study with two key goals: 1) to understand and map the welfare surveillance apparatus; and 2) to understand welfare surveillance from the perspectives and experiences of those who endure this surveillance as well as those expected to enforce it (caseworkers). THE F EMINIZATION OF P OVERTY , A “N O -W IN ” SITUA TION Nationally , over 2.4 million women and girls are living on a low income — a rate of 13.8 percent (Statistics Canada 2016a). Women make up 81 percent of lone parents (Statistics Canada 2015) and single mothers have been identified as being at “high risk” for povert y (Lankin and Sheikh 2012). While women are more likely to experience poverty, single- mother families are at a particular disadvantage as they are often forced to take part-time, poorly paid jobs to meet their childcare responsibilities (van Berkum and Oudshoorn 2015; Vincent 2013). As of 2021, single adults without children make up the majority (61 percent, n=200,231) of cases on social assistance in Ontario. However, when accounting for total beneficiari es (including dependants), lone parents and their children are the largest group of recipients (48 percent, n=372,288), with over 93 percent of lone parents headed by women (Zon and Granofsky 2019; MCCSS 2021). While we must account for how the feminization of poverty is experienced differently depending on one’ s social location, race, ethnicity , sexuality , and disability , we must also acknowledge the systemic factors that perpetuate this process generally . Unfortunately , Ontario Works does not collect this data, which prevents researchers from gaining a deeper understanding of social assistance recipients. There are many overlapping and compounding systemic factors that keep women poor (Wallis and Kwok 2008). Race- and gender -based labour market exclusions, discrimination, and lack of opportunities to advance all prevent women from leaving poverty and the ranks of the working poor (Block, Galabuzi, and Tra njan 2019; Katshunga e t al. 2021; Wallis and Kwok 2008). Persisten t gender stereotypes about “women’ s work” in the home and the simultaneous devaluation of this unpaid care work erases this labour , which contributes to “double” and even “triple” days for women in paid employment (Bezanson and Luxton 2006). Women’ s labour market participation is also significantly obstructed by a lack of affordable childcare. Adding to all of this, domestic violence, one of the leading causes of women’ s homelessness, contributes to financial precarity and housing instability, creating even more vulnerabilities to poverty (Maki 2017; Schwan et al. 2020). Finally , after decades of neoliberal reforms, the eroded welfare state fails to support women when they experience financial hardship — social assistance payments remain far below the poverty line and the various systems of support (social housing, etc.) are insuf ficient and disconnected, resulting in ineffective overall responses. The feminizatio n of poverty is deeply intertwined with systemic racism, as seen in the Canadian labour market. The 2016 Census demonstrated that 20.8 percent of people of colour are low income compared to 12.2 percent of non- racialized people (Statistics Canada 2016c) .1 Accounting for gender, racialized women face higher levels of poverty: 65 percent of families led by single Black mothers are poor compared to 26 percent of families headed by white single mothers (Katshunga et al. 2021; Statistics Canada 2016a). Racialized women, both immigrant and Canadian-born, are often segregated into non-unionized, precarious, low paying jobs with few or no benefits, frequently in the service sector or care economy (Block, Galabuzi , and Tranjan 2019; Galabuzi 2006; Katshunga et al. 2021). The gender and racialized pay gap is also a factor , with racialized women earning fifty-nine cents in comparison to non-racialized men and eighty-seven cents per dollar compared to non-racialized women (Block, Galabuzi, and Tranjan 2019: 14). Since racialized women are segregated into low-paying and precarious work, “employment offers little protection from poverty” (Katshunga et al. 2021). For Black women specifically in the greater Toronto area, “one of the high est rates of working poverty was among Black women at 10.5 percent,” which was more than double the rates for white female workers (4.7 percent) (Katshunga et al. 2021). Systemic discriminatio n and racist labour market policies, including in the social assistance process, perpetuate a cycle of poverty that makes it dif ficult for racialized women, especially single mothers, to get ahead. The Canadian state delineates Indigenous Peoples into three distinct groups — First Nations, Métis, and Inuit — with each group having many distinct cultural groups within. As a result of a long histor y of colonialism, systemic racism, and sexist discrimination, Indigenous women face some of the highest levels of poverty in Canada ( MMIWG 2019; NW AC 2019; Yerichuk, Johnson, Felix-Mah and Hanson 2016). The social and economic marginalization experienced by Indigenous single mothers puts them at furt her risk for violence — at the state level (systemic violence), at the institutional level (education, health care, housing, social assistance, etc.), and as individuals (domestic violence, non-partner violence, lateral violence, etc.) ( MMIWG 201 9). There is a paucity of research and data exploring the poverty of Indigenous mothers, and much of the literature focuses on children’ s poverty instead. However , the existing research does provide insight into the disparities. A 2019 report co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Assembly of First Nations found that more than half (53 percent) of First Nations children on reserve live in poverty; those off reserve (41 percent) as well as non-status First Nations children (32 percent), Inuit children (25 percent) , and M étis children (22 percent) likewise faced increased poverty compared to the one in five or 18 percent national average (Beedie, Macdonald, and Wilson 2019 : 9). National census data also does not capture accurate data on Indigenous Peoples; the Native Women’ s Association of Canada has long fought for data on poverty for each Indigenous identity ( NWAC 2017). For decades, researchers, policy analysts, caseworkers, politicians, and anti-poverty activists have noted that social assistance rates are woefully inadequate. Many single-parent families then struggle to meet basic needs like food and shelter , and intimate partner violence survivors have few alternatives between staying with abusers and homelessness (Little 2015; van Berkum and Oudshoorn 2015). A bare- bones budget calculati on illustrates the impossible situation facing lone parents, the majority of wh om are single mothers. Across Ontario, a single parent with one child under seventeen years receives $360 for basic needs and up to $642 extra for shelter , a tot al monthly allowance of $1,002 regardless of the size of the community or cost of housing, which varies significantly between rural and urban areas ( MCCSS 2020b). In addition to this amount, if the recipient has filed their annual taxes, they are eligible to receive a federal and provincial child tax benefit. The maximum Canada Child Benefit for children under age six ($553.25) and Ontario Child Benefit ( OCB ) ($119.50) totals $672.75 for one child. Combined, this amounts to $1,674.75 per month to cover shelter, food, childcare, and all other expenses. However, the OCB is neither universal nor accessible to all families, especially racialized families; recent immigrants may only access the OCB if their partner is a Can adian citizen, a permanent resident, a refugee, or a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the past eighteen months and who has a valid temporary r esident permit (Government of Canada 2012). Indigenous applicants for OCB are also at a dis advantage because applicants must file an incom e tax return in order to be eligible, and families who live on reserves are not required to file them. Table 1: A verage Monthly Living Costs* in T oronto Ontario, 2020 Expenses Amount Rent (two bedroom) $2,966 Transportation $259 Food (family) $1,055 Phone and internet $156 Total expenses $4,436 Total income (social assistance and Ontario and Canada Child Benefits) $1,675 Expenses Amount Discrepancy in benefits vs. cost of living -$2,761 Discrepancy in benefits vs. MBM -$2,336 *T ota ls h av e b een r o unded u p. As Table 1 show s, the average costs of living for a family of two in Toronto in 2020 are well above ($2,761 versus $1,675) the amounts allotted to a single parent and child on Ontario Works (LowestRates.ca 2020). The low-income cut-off ( LICO ), historically Canada’ s only measurement for poverty , was $26,143 in 2018 for a family of two in a lar ge urban centre (Statistics Canada 2020a). The total annual income a single parent with one child receives on social assistance (including the OCB and Canada Child Benefit) is $20,100 — $6,043 below the LICO . As part of Canada’ s First Poverty Reduction Strategy , in 2018 the Canadian government introduced a new low-income measure, the market basket measure ( MBM ), to establish Canada’s of ficial poverty line. The MBM is calculated “based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living” (Heisz n.d.: 3). The MBM marks progress; however, its critics argue that it only addresses physical sustenance and therefore ignores social and cultural needs as well as the impacts of social exclusion that accompany poverty (Campaign 2000: 2020). In 2018, the MBM in Toronto was estimated at $48,142 (Statistics Canada 2020b ), more than double the amount afforded to OW recipients with one child ($20,100). The feminization and racialization of poverty is troubling, and our broken social safety net is failing low-income mothers. Considering these harsh realities — where welfare rates do not come close to providing the necessary financial supports to meet basic needs — it was shocking to see how closely surveilled single mothers’ spending was. As I interviewed caseworkers, it was clear that there were differing opinions on how much surveillance is required to administer welfare benefits. Some workers were more understanding of the strug gle facing low-income women and cited the stats and numerous system failures that keep women poor. Others had no qualms about digging into people’ s personal lives and did not see any issues with welfare surveillance. One caseworker I interviewed actually felt obligated to keep tabs on recipients and felt that the work he did was no different than a bank employee’ s financial assessment. Y et the moral undertones and placing blame on recipients for their life circumstances was clear: “In life there’ s nothing really free and at the end of the day people are turning to Ontario Works to get help … there has to be some accountability” (Peter , caseworker). Surveillance has become increasingly normalized in many aspects of our lives and “systematic surveillance has become routine and inescapable part of everyday life in modern times” (Lyon 2009: 1). Surveillance is ubiquitous in the workplace, finance, law enforcement, education, health care, and social media, and it has been “rapidly embraced as the central mode of administrativ e management” (Gilliom 2001: 124). With ever -evolving technological advancements and anti-welfare sentiments, surveillance practices since the late 1980s have become particularly prevalent in government services in countries that have most enthusiastically embraced neoliberal doctrines, specifically Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom (W ebster 2012). Because surveillance mechanisms have become so pervasive, during my research I was frequently told by skeptics and liberals alike: “well, if you have nothing to hide…,” “if you haven’ t done anything wrong…,” “if you follow the rules…,” “that is just the way it is now… ,” and “we need technology to solve our problems.” At the other extreme, I heard myths and misconceptions about “widespread fraud,” “welfare cheats,” the “lazy,” and “undeserving” — stereotypes of those who at times rely on social assistance for their subsistence. They were not to be trusted and therefore surveillance and regulating their behaviour were necessary to ensure that they were not abusing the system. In the following pages, I hope to disrupt such assumptions about surveillance and technology by centring the narratives of those who must live under these conditions. It is my hope that the insights of single mothers on social assistance will challenge these normalized ideas of surveillance as neutral, apolitical, and harmless, disputing poor-bashing stereotypes suggesting that the poor deserve such intensive monitoring of their private lives. W elfare surveillance is neither apolitical nor neutral; indeed, as I demonstrate in this book, social sorting, discrimination, moral regulation , and “othering” processes are intertwined with various surveillance practices and not everyone is surveilled for the same reasons. KEY C ONCEPTS AND T ERMS While studying welfare surveillance, the research I reviewed lacked a conceptual model that could capture the full experience of what it is like to live under this form of surveillance and regulation. Employing feminist methods and theory situates lived experience as an important form of knowledge construction and uncovers how hidden forms of state regulation manifest in the daily lives of single mothers on social assistance (Naples 2003). Theoretically , I weave together feminist political economy, moral regulation, and theories of surveillance to analyze the impacts of welfare surveillance and regulation on single mothers and caseworkers. Feminist scholars of poverty have largely ignored technological surveillance as an area of inquiry and only a handful of surveillance scholars have grappled with surveillance in the lives of low -income people, particularly low-income racialized and Indigenous women. Too often these theoretical perspectives are not in conversation with one another , missing the potent ial for new insights and interdisciplinary connections across and beyond theoretical frameworks. By merging these perspectives, I aim to build a conceptual model of the welfare surveillance apparatus. In this section, I review some of the book’ s main concepts to guide readers in their understanding of the application of welfare surveillance. Welfare and social assistance are used interchangeably throughout the book. While the term “welfare” has been and continues to be used in a derogatory manner by some, it was the more common term used by the single mothers and advocates I interviewed. The term “welfare state” refers to a host of governm ent-funded and -managed public services such as health care, education, and social services (including social assistance, unemployment insurance, and disability supports). I use the term “recipients” rather than clients to challenge neoliberal framing that increasingly individualizes poverty by treating welfare delivery as a business and exchange of consumer goods that can be outsourced and earmarked for profit. Surveillance Surveillance involves close monitoring, observation, record keeping, and categorization of information about individuals (Lyon 2007). Lyon outlines three different types of surveillance used to classify individuals: human surveillance, file-based surveillance, and interface (electronic) surveillance. While surveillan ce obviously existed long before computer databases and technology , in modern society — manifested, for insta nce, in the census — it is unique because of its capacity to speed up the collection, analysis, categorization, and analysis of vast amounts of data as well as the permanence of the digital record (Lyon 2007). State surveillance is not neutral but rather a form of social control that people experience differently , as not everyone is surveilled in the same way or for the same reasons (Lyon 2007; Monahan 2010, 2017). As John Gilliom argues, “Surveillance of human behaviour is in place to control human behaviour , whether by limiting access to programs or institutions, monitoring and affecting behaviour within those arenas, or otherwise enforcing rules and norms by observing and recording acts of compliance and deviance” (2001: 3). In the context of publicly funded social programs, “welfare surveillance” refers to the technologies, practices, regulation, and implications of tracking applicants and beneficiaries of social assistance and services (Dee 2013; Maki 2015; Gilliom 2001 ; H enman and Marston 2008; Monahan 2010), and it is used by the state to monitor and regulate low-income communities often across multiple government jurisdictions. Depending on which services the poor are trying to access, they will encounter different types of surveillance (Henman and Marston 2008; Gilliom 2001). Y et it is not only the state that draws on welfare surveillance; communities, individuals, and, increasingly , non-governmental organizations, private companies, and employers participate in monitoring the poor as well. Borrowing from Foucault (1980: 194), I use the term “apparatus” to map out the various interconnected systems of state and non-state welfare surveillance levelled against the poor, including policy and regulations, bureaucracy, welfare of fices, community surveillance, and, increasingly , surveillance technologies. Framing it in this way helps identify how the “apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements.” We also need to think about how computers and emer ging technologies factor into welfare surveillance and subsequent social sorting: “There are dangers inherent in surveillance systems whose crucial coding mechanisms involve categories derived from stereotypical or prejudicial sources” (Lyon 2003: 2). For instance, in a US study about automating public services, Eubanks found, “in new data-based surveillance, the target often emerges from the data .… Surveillance is not only a means of watching or tracking, it is also a mechanism for social sorting. Coordinated entry collects data tied to an individual behaviour, assesses vulnerability , and assigns different interventions based on that valuation” (2017: 122). “Algorithmic surveillance” (Yeung 2018) refers to contemporary surveillance that uses computer database algorithms to predict (and manage) risky behaviour or populations, and it is a useful concept for understanding how welfare automates decision making. Specifically , predefined software codes work with “criteria to trigger special programmed events (alarms, etc.) or outcomes (profiles of risky people)” (Ceyhan 2012 : 43). The process of risk management and predicting behaviours before they even occur separates previous surveillance from modern methods that were not possible without current technology (Lyon 2007: 56). It is important to look beyond the mathematical and technical aspects of algorithms to accoun t for the humans who design them, the institutions that use them, and those who are impacted by them (the users) (Yeung 2018). Indeed, there is the potential for data to obscure discrimination against people on the basis of their gender , sexuality , race, disability , and class (Monahan 2009, 2010, 2017; Lyon 2007; Barocas and Selbst 2016; Noble 2018) . Understanding how these different surveillance practices come together and spread out among other governing bodies helps illuminate the ways in which single mothers are caught in a web of surveillance threads. Borrowing from Haggerty and Ericson’ s (2000) theory of surveillance assemblages, Nicolas Pleace (2007: 6) uses the term “surveillance mashups” to describe data sharing by multiple social service sources to surveil a nd acquire necessary information about low-income individuals. It means that welfare recipients may be monitored by several surveillance mechanisms and social service government agencies at any given time. Mashups allocate power to social service agencies to amalgamate, share, and categorize confidential information about welfare recipients and poor people in general. These powerful, increasingly automated database-sharing technologies have drastically widened the capacity of the state to monitor individuals (Eubanks 2017; Maki 2015). Social control therefore operates at multiple levels in the welfare state apparatus — through various governing bodies, caseworkers, civil society , and the recipients themselves in the form of self-surveillance, whereby individuals internalize social control and subsequently self- regulate (Foucault 1980; Sa’di 2012). In this way, power is multifaceted and taken up by the subjects of surveillance to the extent that they govern their own behaviour . Surveillance of the poor is not new; however , the techniques and capacities to monitor them have transformed (Monahan 2010; Maki 2015 ; Eubanks 2017; Gilliom 2001). To understand the shifts in survei llance approaches, capacities, and impacts on low-income communities, we need to need to contextualize the ways in which surveillance takes a particular form under neoliberalism. Broadly, the political and ideological aim of neoliberalism is to reduce the role of the state via privatization and deregulation as well as through austerity measures and tax breaks for corporations (Harvey 2005). Neoliberalism promote s the increased role of the private sector and economic rationality in not only the economy but society as a whole . Schram argues that this shift has negatively impacted social welfare polices by “putting in place a heightened disciplinary regime for managing subordinate populations who are deemed to be deficient” as neoliberal market citizens (2018: 309). Neoliberalism functions in three specific ways in relation to welfare surveillance: outsourcing to private companies to build surveillance technologies; the expansion of regulating bodies through workfare; and disciplining recipients and caseworkers. Neoliberal approaches to policy have individualized poverty and blamed the poor for their “personal failings,” which has resulted largely in a harsher and more disciplinary welfare state (Schram 2018; Snider 2006). It is steeped in competition, individualism and “ consumer choice” rather than the collective good and betterment of all citizens (Coulter 2009). Neoliberal ideology and subsequent policies and surveillance during the Conservatives’ reforms of the 1990s were used to dismantle the welfare state and lessen public responsibilities and support for those rendered vulnerable in capitalist labour markets (poor, working poor, disable d, women, single mothers, racialized people, etc.) while ratcheting up surveillance and disciplinary measures to reduce “dependency ,” “abuse” and “fraud.” Indeed, emer ging surveillance technologies were perceived as a way to catc h and even deter allegedly widespread welfare fraud. Neoliberal surveillance plays out in the workplace and has significantly altered caseworkers’ labour. To “modernize” welfare, the Ontario government needed to enact practices that could monitor and quantify “results.” This involved new measures to surveil workers to ensure that quotas and targets on caseload reductions, a primary goal of neoliberal welfare policies, were met. New public management ( NPM ) processes plot the transformation of public services, such as welfare, toward more market-oriented practices, reforms, and risk management strategies previously only used in the private sector (Hood 1995). In relation to welfare specifically , this coupled with neoliberal ideologies translates into “market- oriented” approaches to public services that treat social assistance recipients as though they are consumers. Throughout the book, I will incorporate Kenneth Kernaghan and Mohamed Charih’s (1997) three principles of new public management: 1) changing the machinery of governments (technology and bureaucracy); 2) instituting new approaches to internal management (quotas and statistics of workers’ productivity); 3) and reducing the role of the state (market rationalities). Feminist Theory My understanding of neoliberal policy and the welfare surveillance apparatus emerges from moral regulation, feminist political economy ( FPE ), and intersecti onality. Single mothers’ experiences of welfare surveillance were unique and often complicated by intersect ing social locations of class, gender , disabili ty, age, and race. Feminist theories help illuminate the various ways in which the neoliberal state and governing bodies respond to their status as single mothers, how they are rendered “deserving” of social assistance, and how this process is racialized and classed. A feminist analysis of surveillance encourages us to recognize its profoundly moral and gendered dimensions. Informed by Foucault’ s notio ns of power , discourse, and knowledge, “moral regulation” refers to the ways in which individuals are constituted by the state and illuminates the “regulatory practices and discourses” that shape an individual’ s experiences, including social control as well as potential forms of resistance (Valverde and Weir 2006: 76). The moral judgment of single mothers has always been a factor determin ing their deservedness for social assistance. Moral regulation helps illuminate the host of actors involved in surveilling the poor and their role in transforming the individual. Although the scope and meaning of “moral regulation” are contested (Glasbeek 2006; Chunn and Gavigan 2006b), I adopt the definition offered by Little (1998) and Chunn and Gavigan (2006b), who move away from deterministic understandings of social control and situate moral regulation in relation to state and non-state actors as a site of contestation and struggle. Specifically , as Little and Morrison argue, “By highlighting the moral investigative process of a policy one is better able to understand the complex and interdependent relationship between the regulator and the regulated” (1999 : 113). Policy , including welfare legislation, is complex, contradictory at times, and coercive. Yet it also offers potential for resistance, self-determination, and social change. Moral regulation illuminates how the welfare surveillance apparatus connects the different layers and systems of regulation and the relationships between them, as welfare is a site of struggle. As Mar garet Little’ s No Car, No Radio, No Liquor Permit (1998) showed, poor single mothers receiving social assistance have always been surveilled; moral regulation and deservedness for assistance have long been explicitly racialized, as poor white single mothers were the primary beneficiaries of the Ontario Mothers’ Allowance ( OMA ). The OMA created a spec ific politic of entitlement that rested on women’ s capacity for rearing children. In exchange for proper raising of children, they were provided state benefits and “paid” for this labour . This shaped the types of surveillance they experienced, in the form of invasive and patronizing home visits where their mothe ring and social reproduction were heavily scrutinized by social workers. Moreover , there was a constant search for the “man in the house,” as a sexual relationship with a man (i.e., a male breadwinner) would render her ineligible for assistance, thus reaffirming notions of women’s dependency and the patriarchal nuclear family ideal. In the neoliberal era, surveillance has changed and become more sophistica ted, automated , and computer based. What remains, however, are the scrutiny , surveillance, and moral regulation that create specific dynamics between caseworkers and recipients. To understand this shift, I use FPE to explain how single mothers navigate neoliberal welfare policies and how they are conceptualized by the state as “mothers” and “workers.” FPE is essential to understanding the social reproduction involved “in maintaining and reproducing people, specifically the labourin g population, and their labour power on a daily and generational basis” (Bezanson and Luxton 2006: 3). This labour , critical to the maintenance of life itsel f, is often gendered as “women’ s work” and as such is either unpaid (as with traditiona l “housewives”), devalued, or poorly paid (as in the service and care economy) (Armstrong and Connelly 1999; Bakker 1994; Bezanson and Luxton 2006; Brodie 1996; Fudge and Cossman 2002; Coulter 2009 ; Mayson 1999; McKeen 2004; McMullin, Davies, and Cassidy 2002; Mosher and Hermer 2005; Mutari, Boushey , and Fraher 1997). Under neoliberal welfare policies such as workfare, social reproduction is lar gely ignored as a form of “work,” and single mothers are reimagined as workers first, mothers second (Bannerji 2000; Breitkreuz 2005; Caragata and Liegghio 2013; Little 1998, 201 1, 2012). Moving beyond “single-issue analyses” (Crenshaw 1989: 162, 139) intersectionality is a powerful analytical tool in the study of single mothers’ poverty, as it highlights the ways that poverty is differently experienced and responded to (by various institutio ns, including government) depending on the overlap of social locations such as gender , race, class, Indigeneity , disability , and so on . Intersectionality was conceptualized by lawyer and critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw to illustrate how race and gender intersect to create specific experiences of discrimination that reflect the “multidimensionality” of Black women’ s experiences. An intersectional FPE interrogates the systemic factors that reproduce oppression within governing bodies, particularly heteropatriarchy , white supremacy , capitalism, and colonialism. As well, Yasmeen Abu-Laban (2015: 54) asserts that applying an intersectional feminist lens and methodology to studies of surveillance can “enliven and sharpen” the analysis of social systems such as welfare and situate them in a specific social and historica l context that reveals the multiplicity of everyday experiences of surveillance across race, gender , class, disability , age, and sexuality . Indeed, under neoliberal welfare surveillance, there is a specific interplay between class, race, and gender in the criminalization of “welfare fraud.” Due to what Kiran Mirchandani and Wendy Chan (2007) term “welfare racism,” racialized communities in Ontario were specifically targeted for surveillance and fraud investigations following Ontario’s punitive welfare reforms in the 1990s. Welfare racism is no t unique to Ontario, though — US research has also exposed how welfare became linked to fraud as right-w ing media stereotyped racialized single-mother welfare recipients as “welfare queens” and inherently criminal (Kohler-Hausmann 2007). The damage and lateral violence inflicted on communities by 1-800 fraud hotlines created a climate of suspicion among neighbours, friends, and families (Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Kohler -Hausmann 2007; Mosher and Hermer 2005; Chunn and Gavigan 2006b). METHODS Methodologically , my work was shaped by my lived experience of poverty and anti-poverty activism. It feels critical to share this work with a wide audience, not keep it solely in the hands of the ivory tower and among those privileged enough to occupy such space. I wrote this book for the community organizers and anti-poverty activists who work tirelessly and with their whole hearts and bodies on the line to make the world a better place. It’s also for the folxs living in poverty , who fight every day for their survival and may not have the privilege, time, ability, ener gy, and resources to attend the disruptions and rallies to confront the abusive neoliberal state. It is my hope that policy makers and caseworkers also take some time to reflect on the findings and think about how we can work together to dismantle these oppressive systems. This book is based on interview s I conducted in 201 1–12 for my PhD research. Using feminist qualitative methods, the research included a critical analysis of social assistance policy and legislation, thirty-three in-depth open-ended interviews with single mothers on assist ance, caseworkers, and anti- poverty activists, as well as reflections on over a decade of anti-poverty activism. I approached the research from an activist scholar lens, integrating my lived experience of poverty and activism into the research design, analysis, and dissemination of results. This led me to approach the research from a position of solidarity and align my work with and alongside anti-poverty and social justice movements in the struggle for transformative social change. This book was influenced by the many meetings, food shares, workshops, protests, and actions in which I participated with anti-poverty groups. I was inspired by the methods of Sanford Schram (2002: 2), who advocates that “practitioners of politically engaged scholarship” should work “to connect theory and practice and facilitate an informed challenge to the structures of powe r, the inequalities of the political economy, and the deficiencies of social policy .” Anti-poverty activists and advocates were recruited through purposeful sampling methods as well as referrals from my own network. I recruited single mothers through community contacts (often anti-po verty advocate s) whom individuals knew personall y. Because recruitment occurred through a community contact who was involved in anti-poverty advocacy or activism, it may have influenced the make-up of the sample of women I intervie wed. It was more difficult to find caseworkers to interview and I used multiple recruitment strategies. Aside from one OW office, management went to great lengths to discourage me and even “prohibited” workers from speaking to me. This says a lot about the power and gatekeeping involved as well as the protections that government authorities and their workers can put up to prevent outsiders from asking critical questions. In all cities, managers vetted me either by an in-person meeting or over email and in all but one case hand selected the interviewees. In the end I interviewed eight caseworkers and one case manager . In one community I had a contact that put me in touch with a person in management who was helpful in recruiting workers to speak with me. In another , I randomly met caseworkers at a public consultat ion for Ontario’ s Social Assistance Review who then passed my informat ion to their manager to get approval to participate in inter views. Organizing a meeting with manageme nt in the third location of my field work was particularly difficult. I ended up reaching out to a social policy analyst to ask for help and cold-calling caseworkers until I got the atten tion of management. Only then was I able to get a meeting with management to explain the study , and they still insisted on handpicking all participants. Because I only interviewed caseworkers that OW management deemed “safe,” the results may show only certain insights into the inner workings of OW and surveillance. Interestingly enough, the bureaucrats and policy analysts I approached for information about these systems were quick to provide numerous excuses, often citing policy, on why they could not divulge the information. The secrecy with which Ontario Works hid how and why they use surveillance, how algorithms are decided, and what they do with the vast amounts of data they collect was disconcerting but not surprising. This secrecy is common in large bureaucracies that work to “prevent and prohibit everyday work practices from being directly inspected and made transparent.… Even when a social researcher secures entry, project viability demands that rapport with participants is swiftly established and maintained” (Smith 2012: 109). Even as a privileged graduate student with Queen’ s University credentials, I had to be persistent to gain access and even then was expected to jump through hoops and “make my case” to senior management on why they should allow me to interview caseworkers. This access is obviously out of reach for low-income people, who, as many of the women I interviewed pointed out, are often ignored and silenced and can rarely communicate with management. SUMMAR Y OF B OOK Welfare surveillance allows us to examine the intersection of the state and capital in what has become the state-subsidized “surveillance industrial complex,” which “was designed to facilitate conquest and control over those categorized as ‘the other ’, groups seen as problematic by the elites developing and spon soring technological growth” (Ball and Snider 2013: 5). As a conceptual model, the welfare surveillance apparatus helps to theorize links across the political economy of the state, welfare administration, and the experiences of the poor in ways that consider the intersectionality of race, Indigeneity , gender, disability , age, and class. Thinking about welfare surveillance broadly and as a ne twork or “web” also helps us understand how surveillance goes beyond the welfare office and enters into other areas of low-income people’s lives — trapping them in a web of stat e and non-state networks that subsequently regulate and discipline them. The constantly evolving welfare surveillance apparatus is multilayered and involves many systems. Neoliberalism has intensified the reliance on technologies to automate decision making and act as regulatory tools to transform the poor into “good citizen workers.” However, face-to-face surveillance and moral regulation continue to be an integral part of the overall system. The poor, racialized, lone parents, and disabled continuously encounter “rituals of degradation” whereby they are denied access or, if access is granted, are forced to submit to intensive and ongoing monitoring. They must also under go surveillance via home visits, meetings and investigations. Ineligible: Single Mothers Under Welfar e Surveillance centres the experiences of single mothers in understanding welfare surveillance. The book begins by exploring the history of the regulation and surveillance of the poor in Ontario, from the 1800s poor laws to the curre nt neoliberal era, focusing specifically on how single mothers have been situated in emer ging welfare policies. I then provide an overview of the welfare surveillance apparatus, describing the various state and non- state surveillance methods that currently monitor social assistance recipients, and I outline the different types of surveillance used and how they function as a form of social control, whether it be human, file-based, or technological. These surveillan ce methods frequently work in conjunction to search out non-compliance and to spur investigations for fraud or case reviews. The voices of single mothers reveal the multiple and intersecting layers of surveillance they encounter — from the state and civil society and from technology and humans — and what it is like to live under the watchful eye of Ontario Works. Several single mothers revealed how they were ensnared in the ever-broadening web of surveillance networks and how the Famil y Responsibility Office and Children’ s Aid Society shared information to monitor them. Indigenous women were particularly impacted by this surveillance as child welfare functions as an ongoing policy of settler-colonialism. I also wante d to know how those who are tasked with the job of surveilling welfare recipients understand their role in this process and how they have responded to the changing workplace demands under neoliberal welfare surveillance. Caseworkers brought forth new perspectives on how they were situated as both surveillers and the surveilled, since the govern ment’s new public management practices have placed casework ers under pressure to meet quotas and to keep caseloads down. While my interviews with single mothers and caseworkers revealed regulation and social control at the centre of their experience, they also shared many ways that they resist and challenge a broken system. The women who shared their stories with me also demon strated their individual and collective efforts to resist a system bent on punishing and discouraging them from seeking the support to which they are entitled. Caseworkers also demonstrated their everyday subversion and more organized collective challenges within their unions to neoliberal reforms and privatization. I conclude the book with their everyday and collective acts of resistance. I also weave in interviews with anti-poverty activists and reflections on my own work with anti-poverty actions to highlight the different strategies used to resist the neoliberal welfare state. While social inequality is indeed increasingly automated, legislated, and designed into welfare policies, interviews with caseworkers, recipients, and anti-poverty activists have shown that there are cracks in the system — where caseworkers can resist the requirement to surveil every aspect of recipients’ lives and instead decide to look the other way . Where policy can be enacted, it can be resisted and perhaps even dismantled. Resistance, in its various forms, its potential for social transform ation, and its strategies are explored in the conclusion. Note 1. For a great resource on the racialization of poverty , see Colour of Poverty– Colour of Change 2019. 1: A B rie f H is to ry o f W elf a re S urv eilla n ce i n O nta rio T he women I interviewed for this study felt that the constant monitoring and oversight from their caseworkers was intrusive and patronizing. Janice, a young Black single mother who was finishing up high school and key support person for her extended family was regularly grilled on her budget by her caseworker , “Sh e was literally going through everything and she wou ld ask me why I was eating out every day and I said it was because I’m at school … five, six dollars a day , I kinda put that in my budget for my lunch.” The relationship between the surveilled and the surveiller tells us a lot about power and the purpose behind state survei llance. When I asked Peter, a caseworker , abo ut reviewing banks statements, he said that “there has to be some accountability .” I pushed him to elaborate and reflect on what that must feel like for the clients he serves and “helps” on a daily basis and he felt it was completely justifiable: I know clients get upset about it because they feel that we go into their personal lives. Some of them don’t like that. We do question them sometimes on thirty-day bank records and whatever and espec ially when you’re asking them to justify an amount of mo ney … so they get upset. I know I never looked at it as surveillance; it’s no different than me going into a bank and making an application for a loan. Do you know what I mean? Peter ’s quote indicates how state surveillance, moral judgment, and monitoring of spending habits and romantic relationships are normalized and justified by OW authorities because “nothing is free.” The history of poverty regulation in Ontario has deep roots in settler -colonial relations, anti-Black racism, and heteropatriarchy — a system designed on a hierarchy of deservedness. This chapter provides an overview of the history of welfare in Ontario, zoning in on specific policies related to the roles of state power , surveillance, and regulation in the lives of poor single mothers. The bulk of the chapter focuses on neoliberal policy shifts and surveillance from the 1990s to the present. SUR VEILLANCE S TITCHED INTO THE F ABRIC OF THE EMERGING S OCIAL S AFETY N ET While studies of surveillance have gained popularity among social scientists over the past two decades, state surveillance of the poor began centuries ago (Eubanks 2017; Gilliom 2001; Kohler-Hausmann 2007; Little 1998; Maki 2015; Piven and Cloward 1971). In the following section, I examine the development of Canada’ s first welfare policies, specifically in relation to surveillance and regulation, how they evolved to enforce settler-colonial relations, and the legacy left by these nineteenth-century surveillance preoccupations on our contemporary welfare policies. Settler -Colonial Regulation of the “Undeserving” The intersection s and unequal treatment of the poor based on gender , race, and Indigeneity are rooted in and informed by Canada’s early settler-colonial poor relief practices. Gender- and race-based exclusion, “othering,” surveillance, and regulation were built into the very fabric of the Canadi an welfare state. “Othering” refers to a process whereby individuals are positioned as different, deviant, and less than the “norm.” Postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1985) conceptualizes othering in a systemic way and claims that it is always classed (through capitalist and colonial relations), raced (through racialized narratives), and gendered (women’ s bodies used as a vehicle of colonial power). Discourses of “othering” and the dehumanization of non- whites combined with individua lizing, moralistic discourses of poverty to influence who was included and excluded from access to social assistance, and such discourses are deeply intertwined with the hierarchy of deservedness. As historian Alvin Finkel argues, “Race played an important role in determining who received services from both private and state sources” (2006: 57). Where poor white settlers might be adjudicated as deserving of charitable or state aid, Indigenous Peoples and Black settlers were often cordoned off and othered as de facto undeserving; their race and perceived “threat” to nation building prevented their rehabilitation and integration, and therefore they were subject to different policies, designed more to provoke their disappearance than ensure their survival. From the late eighteenth century on, the colonial state managed women’s rep roduction by encouraging some bodies (i.e., those who were white, able bodied, middle class) to reproduce while disciplining “other” bodies (i.e., racialized, disabled, poor, Indigenous). By the early 1900s, eugenics became a popular means to control and regulate the reproduction of certain “undesirable” or “unfit” populations (Stote 2012, 2015). Poor women were seen as a “burden” on the state and perceived as candidates for forced sterilization: “Impoverished and marginalized women and their children, who were often forced to rely on state aid or private charity, came to be view ed as a costly burden. They were also blamed for perpetuating social problems in society” (Stote 2012: 119). While some poor white women were sterilized, Indigenous women were disproportionality targeted during legislated sterilization campaigns in Alberta and British Columbia from 1933 to 1973. Biopolitical surveillance was a foundational way for the settler -colonial state to intervene in the “health” and “well- being” of various populations, especially Indigenous communities (Lawrence 2004, 2008; Ceyhan 2012; Emberley 2001; O’Connell 2013; Sa’di 2012) . To achieve this level of intervention, colonizers needed to gather knowledge about the population, so they measured their behaviours and health using surveys and the census, then compiled and categorized the data. As Julia Emberley (2001: 62) argues, “These early policies are significant because of the way they helped define an intense arena on which to exercise and deploy the biopolitical relations of sex, race and the aboriginal woman’s body.” Anne O’Connell’ s (2010, 2013) genealogical investigation of early poor laws in Upper Canada shows how heavily populati on science and racial ideologies influenced the ways in which colonies understo od and subsequently managed poverty for both settlers and the colonized. O’Connell (2013: 2) highlights how systemic racism and poverty policy are intrinsically intertwined: Race is always a component of poverty and class division.… While the ideological fervor that condemned the pauper in Britain took hold here, this must be viewed alongside the troubling political presence of black settlers, fugitive slaves, and Native populations. Understanding the imperial and colonial policies that targeted these already politicized populations reorders the ways in which social welfare and separate histories are constituted. O’Connell illustrates the investment that settler colonizers had in the racial hierarchy , white supremacy , and the exploitation of labou r, and she disrupts dominant narratives of Canada as a safe haven for fugitive slaves. The 1833 Act for the Abolition of Slavery , extradi tion laws, and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act created conditio ns whereby the freedom of Black people in the colony was precarious. This legislation made clear that white settlers perceived Blacks as competitors for land and jobs, and they tacitly condoned violence to maintain power and control. Indigenous Peoples represented a similar threat to the expanding colonial empire and therefore were subject to different forms of regulation by the settler -colonial state under the Indian Act (1876). Indigenous scholar Bonita Lawrence’ s research situates how gendered colonial biopolitical mechanisms were used and emphasizes the exclusion of Indigenous women from “official” (legal) Status (Lawrence 2008, 2004). Concerns over poverty and the failure of Indigenous Peoples to assimilate prompted an array of colonial policies specifically designed to inter fere with the traditional livelihood of Indigenous Peoples and impose settler-colonial values. These policies legitimized the erasure of Indigenous Peoples through genocide, relocation, assimilation, and exclusion (Alston-O’Connor 2010; Carter 2008; Finkel 2006; O’Connell 2013; Palmater 2017; Smith 2005; Thobani 2007). Many Indigenous communities were relocated to small reserves tha t did not provide the resources and territory to sustain their traditional lifeways. The main role of Indian Affairs offices was to keep “Native peoples out of the way of advancing settlements” (Finkel 2006: 57), and surveillance was harnessed as a means to limit movement and facilitated population control via the reserve system. Land surveys were used to commodify the land and allocate plots to settler colonizers, while cartography was used as “a tool of governance” (Sa’di 2012: 152). In addition to exclusion from charity, work, and state relief, Indigenous Peoples were excluded from early public schools. The lack of provisions and exclusions for Black settlers and the segregated treatment of Ind igenous Peoples suggest that the foundations of the Canadian (and Ontario’ s) welfare state cannot be understood outside the context of racist nation- building policies that promoted whiteness as a prerequisite for deservedness and inclusion. The Role of Charity: “Saving the Poor” In the years leading to Confe deration (1791–1867), Upper Canada (Ontario) was part of the British settler colony known as the Province of Canada. Upper Canada’ s Constitution Act of 1791 offered no state provisions for the poor , due to prevailing concerns that state-supported “relief” would discourage the development of independence and a strong work ethic, both of which were seen as a necess ity for settler colonizers to continue expansion (O’Connell 2013; Guest 1997). With state refusal to finance relief and little in the way of private charity, poverty in the colonies was criminalized. Since the poor were already perceived as morally suspect, jails were used to regulate and contain them in the interests of law and order: “The jails became a type of poo rhouse, a catchall for a variety of social problems — the homeless poor, the insane, offenders both petty and serious, young and old” (Guest 1997: 15). Over time, individual and private charity played a central role in helping the destitute; however, moral regulation and monitoring of behaviour is evident in early private charity models that aimed to “save” and “reform” the poor . Those who worked within private charities, most of which were religious, advocated moral reforms to address poverty in the colony , thereby positioning themselves as the most suitable bodies to intervene and regulate the poor . The primary goals of these religious charities were to “reform” (i.e., transform) poor individuals; they believed that individuals were responsible for their social and financial plight and that the reform of individuals could end or reduce poverty and dependency on the colonial state. As histo rians Richard Splane (1965) and Mariana Valverde (1995) have note d, all levels of the state were reluctant to fund welfare and, in most municipalities, poor relief began as private and/or local initiatives . However , the concern over “indiscriminate” charity that failed to distinguish between the deserving/undeserving and supposedly encouraged dependency led to the uneven growth of state intervention and investment in welfare, or what Valverde has called the “mixed social economy .” By the end of the nineteenth century, the state was over seeing, funding, and regulating Houses of Industry, old age homes, insane and emigrant asylums, and state orphanage s run by a host of charities and private organizations. New Poor Laws in Upper Canada (Ontario) One of the earliest concerns of the settler -colonial state was how best to mo nitor and regulate the poor . While poor white settlers did not encounter the same blanket exclusions as Indigenous people and Black settlers, nor were they given a free ride. Canada’ s earliest relief practices — whether under the auspices of the state, charities, or religious orders — were intended to regulate the poor , unemployed, and disabled, to maintain a cheap pool of labour , and to dampen social unrest. However benevolent the intentions, welfare, even in its earliest permutations, functioned as a form of social control (Piven and Cloward 1971; Palmer and Heroux 2012). Indeed, as Bryan Palmer and Gaetan Heroux (2012) argue, relief was also a technique of pacification — sometimes, especially in lean years, offering some social provisions if these were deemed necessary to prevent riots and maintain social order . As poverty in the colonies increased in the mid-nineteenth century , authorities realized that something had to be done to separate the criminal from the poor . Influenced by the 1834 British Poor Law s and the institutionalization of workhouses, the Toro nto House of Industry was established in 1837 and others were erec ted in places like Kingston and Ottawa. They were publicly and privately funded and governed by some state oversight . These institutions intensified welfare surveillance as residents were under constant observation by superintendents and staff and expected to follow strict rules and work in exchange for relief or room and board. These workhouses combined “charity , punishment and reformation” (Thompson 2014: 16). They were effective in “disciplining the labour force .… The individual clung to his or her job when the only alternative to work, no matter how onerous or ill-paid, was a choice between starvation or the parish workhouse with its penal atmosphere” (Guest 1997: 11). Single mothers were often forced to abandon their children to religious charities and orphanages as a condition of entry (Fingard 1982; Palmer and Heroux 2012; Splane 1965), an indication that the state perceived them, by virtue of their poverty , as incapable and unworthy of mothering their own children. Indigenous people and Black settlers were discouraged and/or often denied entry to Houses of Industry . The “principle of less eligibilit y” guided the administration of relief, workhouses, and early poor laws in Upper Canada. The principle ensured that all forms of state relief or assistance paid less than the lowest paid work available and was believed to act as a mechanism to reduce “dependency” and ensure that the poor would “choose” even the worst job over relief (Piven and Cloward 1971). The characterization of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor worked to prevent too many people from availing themselves of relief. Deservedness was highly individualistic and predicated upon people’s willingness to transform themselves into good, independent, and productive workers based on Christian morality and a Protestant work ethic. Before the creation of “Canada” in 1867, and long before the rise of neoliberalism in the late twentieth century, early state relief was already “workfare” — recipients were morally judged, surveilled, and disciplined according to a hierarchy of “deservedness, ” and laissez-f aire ideologue s insisted that state relief, not the dislocations of the classed labour market, actually caused poverty . In addition to Houses of Industry , there is at least one example of a specific house for women; the Toronto Magdalene Asylum/Industrial House of Refuge for Females was a workhouse for “fallen women” who could be imprisoned for a variety of behaviours. The Magdalene Asylum targeted working-class women accused of pregnancy outside of marriage, public drunkenness, promiscuity, or engaging in sex work (Minaker 2004: 2, 29). Historian Joan Sangster (2001: 199–200, 92) critically points out that poor racialized women were targeted for reform in these houses of refuge because “the dominant definitions of immorality were associated with class and race.” Poor women’ s sexuality and bodies were of central concern to “reform” them into “proper” women, and in-person surveillance and discipline overseen by nuns were central techniques used. “They developed a gendered reform program involving correction, regulation and other forms of control, all justified in the name of character reformation and done for their own good.” Inmates were subject to moral, religious, and industrial training (e.g., long days of unpaid labour) to prepare them for poorly paid but abundant jobs in domestic service or commercial laundries. Historical records and interviews with survivors indicate widespread abuse (psychological, physical, sexual), forced labour, and forced confinement, which had devastating impacts on survivors’ mental health and sense of self (Croll 2019). Ontario Mothers’ Allowance Ontario’s introduction of the Mothers’ Allowance ( OMA ) in 1920 marked a significant shift in the role of the provincial government into welfare provision and was “one of the first pillars of welfare state legislation in Canada” (Little 2006: 218). For those who fought to establish the OMA, it was seen as a significant social policy win because the provincial government committed itself to supporting some of its most vulnerable citizens. However, the OMA mirrored many of the ideological preoccupations of earlier government welfare initiatives — beliefs about deserving and non-deserving poor, individualized understandings of poverty , and the complex intersections of gender , race, and class. In-person and bureaucratic surveillance and moral regulation were built into the OMA, and financial support was provided in exchange for one’s pe rsonal privacy and denial of human dignity. The OMA sought to reform impoverished women to conform to gender role expectations and was grounded in a specific politics in which women were made eligible for a new kind of materialist citizenship, protection, and assistance precisely because of their mothering work (Fraser and Gordon 1997; Gordon 1990; Little 1998). Women’ s reproductive, sexual, and gendered labour was key to their entitle ment and therefore subject to intense scrutiny from welfare authorities. The OMA benefits were granted to certain poor mothers based on their “moral worthiness” — through state surveillance, recipients had to prove that they were “a fit and proper person” (Little 1998: 94). The policy enacted a gendered, racialized, and classed politics of entitlement that rested on women’ s capacity to mother their children (Gordon 1990; Little 1998): Poor white women would be the first beneficiaries of the allowance, benefits were solely tied to women’ s roles as mothers, and the OMA was classed as women were expected to fulfill their mothering role within specific confines of bourgeoisie standards. The policy discouraged women who did not meet these standards from even applying — for instance, while Indigenous women were included as beneficiaries, few actually accessed the OMA ( Lit tle 1998). The policy was designed in a way that disqualified applicants who could not provide certain documentation, which often excluded Black, Indigenous, and Eastern European mothers. This exclusion by design is wh at Frances Piven and Richard Cloward (1971) describe as “rituals of degradation,” in which bureaucratic rules and barriers purposefully made some people ineligible for support, either because they could not find the proper documen tation, were not given the correct information, or found the application process so degrading that they withdrew or were discouraged from any future attempts to access support (Herd, Mitchell, and Lightman 2005). Bureaucratic surveillance and record keeping became a central means to gather information about beneficiaries and keep tabs on their ongoing eligibility or “worthiness.” Widows and wives with incapacitated husbands were the first to receiv e the allowance; deserted wives had to under go an investigation and it was not until 1979 that separated women could receive the allowance (Little 1998). Reflecting on these stipulations, Margaret Little (1998: 14, 67) notes, “Just as husbands had financially supported them in return for sexual monogamy , the state struck the same bargain.” To receive benefits, single mothers first had to agree to under go intensive screening, which included an investigation of their single status and maternal capacities, as well as a promise to uphold “sexual morality,” to be considered eligible. Black and Indigenous women encountered racism in the investigations by caseworkers as well as by neighbours, who were often interviewed as part of the investigation. Clearly , the architects of the OMA did not design mothers’ allowances to support women’s independence from men; they sought instead to reinforce women’ s dependency upon the patriarchal nuclear family unit and their “natural” roles as mothers and wives in the private sphere of the home. Women fighting for these benefits were aware of this gendered discourse and used it to their advantage — white single mothers fought for state benefits based on their gendered location within the nuclear family — that is, as caregivers and “mothers of the nation.” Because the state saw the maternal role of the mother as pertinent to achieving “the social reproduction of ‘good’ citizens,” the hegemonic nuclear family acted as a mechanism for the state to achieve social control over certain families that fell outside of the norm, including poor families headed by single mothers (Gavigan and Chunn 2007: 738). As eligibility restrictions gradually eased, the municipal boards responsible for applications could no longer meet the volume of work, especially since it required rigorous and ongoing monitoring of beneficiaries. Qualified experts were needed to oversee the eligibility , investigations, and management of these poor women. With the support of psychologists and other professionals , the social work profession was established in Canada in the interwar years, when the first social programs were being developed. Social work scholar Carol Baines (1991: 54) argues that middle-class men thought they could “solve” social ills such as poverty through science and “rationali ty.” These elite men became administrators, policy makers, and managers of social workers — the architects of the welfare surveillance apparatus — while the fron tline workers remained predominantly white middle- class women. The professiona lization of social work and state oversight brought forth more bureaucratic processes and the need for “scientific” documentation and data gathering, which solidified the need for meticulous, file-based surveillance within welfare services. Social workers became perceived as “experts” who were essential to “transform” those women who were “dependent” upon state benefits (Baines 1991; Freedber g 1993; Little 1998, 2011; Mof fat 2001 ). They were authorized to conduct home visits to assess many areas of social reproduction — including cleaning, sanitation, childcare, cooking, and femininity — to enforce appropriate bourgeois gender roles. Surveillance via home visits and ongoing case management was an exercise of state power and control. Although current neoliberal policies see single mothers more as work ers and are designed to force them into low-waged work more than traditional and dependent heterosexual marriages, the legacy of the OMA — questioning the morality and trustworthiness of poor women, surveilling them, scrutinizing their romantic relationships, entering their homes, and judging their mothering and social reproduction — still persists on many fronts. Keynesian W elfare State Although the General Welfar e Assistance Act was established in 1958, it was not until 1967 that general welfare assistance became a federal and provincial cost-sharing program (Struthers 1994). In 1965, the federal minority Liberal government’ s speech from the throne announced a “war on poverty” and introduced two fundamental policies: the Canada Assistance Plan ( CAP ) and the Canad a Pension Plan ( CPP ). The CAP includ ed a fifty-fifty cost-sharing agreement with provinces to cover social assistance program costs, including family benefits and general welfare (Struthers 1994; Finkel 2006). The CAP was a significant achievement and represented an ideological shift within the bour geoning welfare state by establishing universal needs-bas ed programs that widened the scope of entitlement beyond those who qualified for unemployment insurance. For the first time in Canadian history, the CAP ensured that assistance and welfare were available based on need rather than means testing, and it “dramatically transformed the provincial welfare scene” (Little 1998: 141). Mor eover , under CAP ’s stipulations, welfare offices were prevented from enforcing work-for-welfare (workfare). This was largely influenced by labour unions, who claimed that workfare would lower wages for all workers and encourage greater competition for low-skilled and low-paid jobs (Fudge and Cossman 2002 ; Torjma n 1996). With the CAP , the Keynesian welfare state reached its peak — perhaps at no other time did the concern to meet people’ s needs momentarily outweigh the regulatory demands to instill a docile working citizenry . Ontario’s two main social assistance programs between 1968 and 1988 were General Welfare Assistance and the Family Benefits Allowance. General Welfare focused more on employable people in need, whereas Family Benefits applied to those were deemed unable to work, such as single parents and those with disabilities. With the cancellation of the OMA in 1968, “the formal commitment to explicit moral standards was dropped” — however , the criteria surrounding what constituted “single” was still narrowly defined by the state (Little and Morrison 1999: 114). While these were significant policy shifts, the moral regulation and surveillance of recipients, particularly single mothers, persisted informally throughout the Keynesian period. Even under universal needs- based programs, the principle of less eligibility , rituals of degradation, and a hierarchy of deservedness infused with individualism, suspicion, and moral judgments continued. As Little (1998, 2001, 2003, 2006 ) has extensivel y documented, single mothers receiving social assistance were heavily scrutinized by welfare caseworkers and were subject to surprise home visits to investi gate the state of the home’ s cleanliness and search for any signs of a male partner . Their spending habits were also open to questioning, and they faced pressures from the special investigation unit set up to locate absent fathers for child support. In-person and file-based monitoring were prevalent, and electronic surveillance was added as welfare policy entered the neoliberal era. Neoliberal W elfare Reforms: A New Era of Regulation The erosion of the Keynesian welfare state, beginning in the early 1980s and heightened in the 1990s, marked an ideological and discursive shift to neoliberalism and austerity measures. The dismantling of needs-based welfare provisions occurred at both the national and provincial/territorial levels. In 1996, a key component of the Keynesian welfare state was clawed back when the Libera l government terminated the Canada Assistance Plan. The CAP was replaced with the Canada Health and Social Transfer ( CHST ), wherein the federal government provided provinces with lump-sum payments to allocate toward education, welfare, and health. The CHST marked a return to the federal government’ s pre-Keynesian insistence that welfare was primarily a provincial/territorial responsibility . Since there was less public support for welfare services than for health care and education, welfare budgets became an easy target for cuts by cash-starved provincial governments. The end of the CAP also opened the possibility of mandatory workfare programs. There are many ways we could examine neoliberal welfare reforms, as they are complex, overlapping, and constantly shifting. Social policy is a living and breathing entity and subject to the sociopolitical and historical context of a given time. The neoliberal turn in welfare policies has been extensively researched and written about by a variety of feminist scholars (Brodie 1996; Coulter 2009; Dominelli 1999; Evans and Wekerle 1997; Finkel 2006; Fraser and Bedford 2008; Fudge and Cossman 2002; Little 2001, 2003, 2012; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Porter 2003; Power 2005; Snider 2006). Femini st critiques of neoliberal welfare reforms have significantly shaped my analysis and interest in this subject. However , this body of research has for the most part ignored the technological changes, privatization and outsourcing, and the subsequent surveillance that accompanied these welfare reforms. Here I briefly overview neoliberal ideology and then focus on three overarching themes — welfare fraud, workfare, and modernization — to contextualize how and why technological and algorithmic welfare surveillance became such a central administrative practice within social assistance in Ontar io. As electronic and risk-management software took hold, older methods of welfare surveillance, such as human and bureaucratic, did not disappear and some ways they were even intensified. During and following the 1990 s recession, policy makers, politicians, welfare administrato rs, and the media launched an ideological attack on the poor . Certain segments of the poor were blamed for “abusing the system” especially single mothers and racialized communities, whose “welfare dependency” was perceived as a “drain” on the welfare system (Swanson 2001). Jean Swanson (2001) framed this backlash against low-income communities as discriminatory “poor bashing.” Stereotypes about motherhood, poverty, morality , sexuality , race, and fraud concurrently framed single-mother welfare recipients, especially racialized mothers, as deviant, suspect, and criminal. The “welfare queen” stereotype portrayed poor Black women as a lazy , criminal, and fraudulent underclass who had children for the sole purpose of securing bigger welfare cheques (Kohler-Hausmann 2007 ; Mirchandani and Chan 2007). This stereotype provided an excuse for the constant regulation, discipline, and surveillance of racialized, single welfare mothers to keep them “in line” and “on track” (Power 2005; Schram, Soss, and Fording 2003). As critical race scholar Grace-Edward Galabuzi claims, “using mothers as scapegoats fits with cultural explanations for crime in a period of panic; racializing and classing criminality reinforces a racialized and/or immigrant underclass that exists outside of the bounds of normal Canadian behaviour” (2010: 86). Neoliberal reforms were well underway with Bob Rae’s NDP government (1990–95 ), while the recession forced many out of work and onto unemployment insurance and welfare. In an attempt to curb expanding welfare caseloads during the recession (an increase not seen since the Depression), public and political backlash prompted the Rae government to abandon its Keynesian/social democratic welfare policies in 1992 and adopt neoliberal austerity measures to reduce the deficit by reviewing and limiting social assistance expenditures. They promised to “get tough” on welfare cheaters and launch a “war on welfare dependency” (Sheldrick 1998: 46). It was during this pivotal time that the NDP reinforced “welfare fraud” hysteria, which perpetuated anti- welfare sentiments that were growing within Parliament, the mainstream media and the general public (Ellsworth, Morrison, Keen, and Rapsey 1994: 7). The NDP believed that weeding out “welfare cheats,” avoiding human error, and limiting the welfare budget required sophisticated surveillance technologies. As they bolstered the more tradition al forms of human and bureaucratic investigative techniques, the NDP also introduced the first electronic software. The NDP ’s anti-fraud campaign included the first forma lized enhanced verification and case file investigations. These processes resulted in “more frequent and intensive investigation … increased formal information demands from recipients … more restrictive eligibility rules … and increased pressure on recipients to pursue other potential sources of income” (Ellsworth et al. 1994: 8–9). The government also initiated “enforcement-oriented welfare administration” and hired 270 investigators to review active welfare cases (Ellsworth et al. 1994; Little 1998 ; Sheldrick 1998). Many recipients reported “abusive and threatening treatment from the growing number of ‘welfare cops’” (Ellsworth et al. 1994: 9). Advocates, anti-poverty activists, and recipients were concerned over threats to privacy and confidentiality , gains that were previously won to protect recipients’ personal information. During this time, surveillance was normalized by social services “encouraging/requiring citizens to provide information in exchange for services” (Webster 2012: 313), which significantly inflated data gathering at levels not seen or possible with previous technologies. As neoliberal ideology fuelled Ontario’ s welfare reforms, new public man agement ( NPM ) is argu ably one of the primary instruments that the government harnessed to transform the welfare system. Christopher Hood, who coined the term, suggests NPM inv olves “lessening or remo ving differences between the public and the private sector and shifting the emphasis from process accountability toward a greater element of accountabilit y in terms of results” (1995: 94). Instead of government being accountable to a citizenry it “serves,” the discourse of the Keynesian era, new public management seeks to be accountable to a citizenry recast in business terminology as shareholders (taxpayers) and clients (recipients of government assistance). “Reorganization” and “modernization” are NPM ’s slogans for repurposing government as a corporate entity driven by fiscal, not human, concerns. This was reflected not only in increasing eligibility restrictions but also in the internal review of welfare spending and “expenditure control” by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (Ellsworth et al. 1994). Indeed, modernization involved significant investments from the government into the welfare surveillance apparatus and initiated a more sophisticated electronic infrastructure. As surveillance scholar William Webster (2012: 314) notes, modernizing public administration allows the use of new information communication technologies ( ICT s) “in the delivery of public services and tha t the techno logies can be harnessed to ‘transform’ and reconfigure public administration around the informational capabilities of new ICT s.” Modernization is highly motivated by making public systems more efficient. Ontario implemented efficiency in two key ways: by reducing overall costs (keeping caseloads down with eligibility restrictions, two-step verification processes, rate reductions, excessive rules, etc.) and through the automation of welfare delivery whereby human decision making and flexibility were curtailed. The policies that emerged during neoliberal welfare reforms were highly bureaucratic, which fit nicely with the emer ging surveil lance technologies designed to measure and predict risk and surveil recipients via face-to- face, file-based, and electronic interfaces. Surveillance was directed at both the caseworkers, to monitor their productivity , and recipients, to monitor their workfare activities, spending, and relationship status to seek out ineligibility . What set this era of welfare surveillance and regulation apart was the development of technology that could create permanent records and access data in real time, continuously verifying everything from assets to iden tity. Algorithmic surveillance was also a game changer because it automated decision making and flagged case files based on predetermined risk criteria for recip ients’ potential for fraud or “non-compliance” (see Chapter 2). These new electronic surveillance mechanisms would significantly bolster the power of welfare authorities and the state to monitor and subsequently regulate the poor in ways that were not possible in the past. But it was not just that new technology intensified two centuries of regulation of the poor; what is most striking is NPM ’s unprecedented dehumanizing of those on social assistance. Welfare recipien ts under NPM business-inspired technologies were reduced to a countable inventory , a product to be tracked and managed in real time, a liability to write of f. “Ontario Works” Elected in 1995, Mike Harris’s Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) government campaigned on an explicitly right-wing neoliberal platform designed to appeal to taxpayers and corporations. The Harris government’ s “Common Sense Revolution ” rejected Keynesianism and encouraged the mythology that the poor and unemployed were to blame for their own economic situations. Harris promised to overhaul the welfare system by “breaking the cycle of dependence and encouraging a work ethic and encouraging able-bodied people to view welfare as something temporary and not a lifestyle” (Monsebraaten 1995). Harris promised to pull Ontario out of the recession through deficit reduction, lower taxes, and budget cuts to public government programs (PC Cons ervative Party 1994). In short order , drastic cuts were made in welfare rates, health, and education, and a number of public services were privatized and/or outsourced. Laws regulating corporations were downsized or repealed, and the poor were made more vulnerable to criminalization and forced into workfare. The welfare reforms were particularly swift and harsh (an immediate 21.6 percent reduction in benefits), and many claimed that there had never been such a dramatic overhaul of the social safety net in Canadia n history (Abell 2001; Baker 1997; Balfour and Comack 2004; Brodie 1996; Caragata 2003; Chunn and Gavigan 2004, 2006a ; Fitzgerald 2004; Fudge and Cossman 2002; Gavigan and Chun 2007; Johnson 2010; Little 2001; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Mosher et al. 2004; Power 2005; Snider 2006; T orjman 1996 ). Harnessing the first princip le of NPM , changing the bureaucracy of governments, Harris overhauled the welfare legislation with a series of policies to “streamline” delivery. The general welfare allowance and Family Benefit Allowance (for sole support parents and people with disabilities) were rolled into a single program for those seen as capable of working: “Ontario Works” (OW). The Ontario Disability Support Program ( ODSP ) wa s cr eated for those who, depending on strict criteria and evidence, are deemed unable to work due to a mental or physical disabilit y as “verified by an approved health care prof essional” ( MCCSS 2 018b) . It is widely known that it is a lengthy and difficult process to access ODSP , involving extensive medical documentation. While the Ontario welfare system has included many policies to govern the administration of the program, the Ontario Works Act, 1997 (hereafter OWA ) is said to have over eight hundred rules and regulations. Single mothers on assistance would be negatively impacted by the redefinition of “spouse” in the Act, anti-fraud measures, and workfare. Only single mothers with preschool- age children were exempt from workfare requirements. The OWA ef fectively jettisoned welfare policy reaching back to the 1920s Ontario Mothers’ Allowance, which took into account that familial responsibilities limited mothers’ participation in the labour market. As such, single-mother welfare recipients were reimagine d as “dependants” (or fraudulent criminals) rather than careg ivers, erasing the essential social reproduction needed to care for children and families (Bezanson and Luxton 2006; Little 201 1). These changes resulted in significant demands for data gathering and analysis. File-based surveillance was upgraded to a computer interface with Service Delivery Model Technology ( SDMT ). New technologies and computer software automated eligibility criteria and cross referenced in real time with third parties to verify identity and assets, the latter of which had to be liquidated before they could apply for support . Predictive risk analytics and algorithmic surveillance flagged recipients deemed more likely to commit fraud for extra scrutiny through the Consolidated Verification Process ( CVP ), discussed in more detail in Cha pter 2. It was widely assumed that these new technologies could catch and deter welfare fraud — however , their introdu ction, coupled with neoliberal reforms and policy , only doubled down on the objectification and discipline of those on social assistance. Welfar e Fraud and the Criminalization of Poverty T he neoliberal overhaul and “modernization” of Ontario’ s welfare system ushered in a new era of regulating and disciplining the poor . Alongside the erosion of the welfare state, the provin cial PCs reintroduced criminalization policies that implicitly situated those in need of social assistance as deviant and untrustworthy . In the Liberal opposition’ s challenging of these anti-fraud practices, one MPP noted, “the message they’ve sent out to the people of Ontario is that if you are a welfare recipient, you are a potential criminal” (Crone 1995 ). Anti-fraud measures to catch alleged fraudsters included new sophisticated electronic and file-based surveillance practices that were linked to a “get tough on crime” strategy. Harris’ s zero-tolerance policies, the biometrics pilot (to finger scan recipients, see Chapter 2), the welfare fraud hotlines, and the lifetime bans on social assistance if convicted of fraud were just the beginning. Soon after these policies took hold, centralized computer systems ( SDMT , CVP ) — with built-in risk algorithms to weed out the undeserving poor and potentially suspect — were developed. Toro nto’ s Social Services Division declared that this technology was a primary “defence” against welfare fraud (MacV icar 2006 : 2). Due to longstanding sexist and racist biases within social assistance policy and delivery , these reforms made single mothers, especially racialized single mothers, more likely to be singl ed out for investigations, anti-fraud measures, and harsher eligibility criteria. T heir status as single parents, “spouse in the house” rules, and suspicions about their ability to be “good mothers” made them potentially deviant and suspect (Little and Morrison 1999; Little 1998; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Mosher and Hermer 2005). Himani Bannerji suggests that this was no coincidence, as single mothers are “seen as a burden on the state and the economy; that is, on the more competent, economically productive, masculinized ‘tax payer’.… Thanks to the combined effort of the state and the media, poverty is ‘feminized’” (2000: 1). From 1985 to 1995, single mothers could cohabit with a male partner for up to three years without facing investigation or financial penalties. However , the backlash against single mothers on welfare made this legal definition a tar get for anti- fraud initiatives. Welfare workers, nicknamed the “pecker detectors,” were suspicious of women living with men and claimed that it was “abuse” of the system (Little and Morrison 1999). The new definition of “spouse” meant that a man, regardless of his length of residence “in the same dwelling place” would be considered her spouse and legally responsible for her and her children. Little and Morrison argue that the redefinition of spouse was a “re turn to the practice of intense surveillance of poor mothers’ relationships and contacts with men” (1999 : 11 7, 110). This reform was constitutionally challenged by Sandra Falkiner in 2002 ( Falkiner v. Ontario 2002). The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in her favour and claimed it was “unconstitutional” and “stripped women of their dignity” ( CBC News 2004). This led to further amendments to allow a three-month cohabitation before reporting to welfare authorities, a minor extension but nonetheless a win. However , an invasive questionnaire to test whether singles, regardless of gender , were in fact “single” also became mandatory ( MCCSS n.d. e.). It was said that sorting single-status individuals into couple status with one beneficiary would save millions of dollars. Indeed, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services ( MCCSS ) reported more than a 50 percen t reduction in welfare rolls — from 1,379,300 in 1994 (12.7 percent of the population) to 687,000 (5.7 percent of the population) in 2002 (Gabel, Clemens, and LeRoy 2004: 24). Feminist and social legal scholars critiqued how this policy shift directly accused single mothers, who, at the time, represented the largest demog raphic of caseloads and any reduction in their numbers would save the government money. Janet Mosher et al. (2004: 20, 68) documented that the redefinition of “spouse” resulted in 10,013 terminated cases. Of these terminations, 89 percent were women and 76 percent of these women were single mothers. Failure to report a partner was considered at the very least suspicious, prompting an investigation, which could lead to a suspension of benefits. These sentiments echoed the policy governing the early Mothers’ Allowance and its obsession with sleeping arrangements, families who took in boarders (to offset rental costs), and the sexual morality of single mothers (Little 1998). Spouse-in-the-house rules heightened the surveillance of single mothers as new forms of monitoring became centralized — combining home visits with community surveillance (via welfare fraud hotlines) and electronic surveillance (algorithms and electronic case files), which all worked in conjunction to identify reasons for ineligibility and non-compliance. As Janet Mosher and Joe Hermer ’s ( 2005: 13) research found, the broad use of “fraud” and subsequent surveillance made everyday routines suspicious: The Regulations governing both “spouses” and “income” place the recipient (the majority of them single women, many of whom are single parents) under a climate of almost total surveillance, where conduct that one would assume to have nothing to do with “fraud,” such as a boyfriend visiting for dinner , or bringing leftovers home from supper at a relative’ s place, can become grounds for an accusation of fraud and the withholding or terminating of benefits. In the fall of 1995, the MCCSS announced that they would address welfare fraud with 1-800 welfare fraud hotlines that encouraged n eighbours, family, friends, and teachers to report “welfare cheats.” Due to the widespread mistrust and misogynistic stereotypes about single mothers (historically and at that time), it is no surprise that the hotlines were ripe with allegations of single mothers living with their boyfriends and “double dipping.” Indeed, spouse-in-the-house violations were the second most frequently reported issue to the hotlines (Little 1998), and many of the reports to the fraud hotlines were from ex-partners seeking revenge or as a strategy to further abuse and harass their former partners (Mosher et al. 2004). Racialized immigrant and refugee communities were also seen as suspect and guilty of “pillaging” the welfare system. In a media interview , Liberal leader Lyn McLeod stated that the Somali community “is importing refugees to systematically pillage our vulnerable and exposed social welfare systems in an attempt to raise funds to support clan interests in the struggle for power in Somalia” ( The Gazette 1993: B7). Even though these claims were later found to be untrue, the dama ge was irreparable: “These representations … allowed for racialized profiling and repression that was directed explicitly at Black women” (Maynard 2017: 133). Feminist and social-legal scholars have argued that the increased criminalization of poor women under Ontario’ s neoliberal welfare laws was not accidental (Balfour and Comack 2004; Chunn and Gavi gan 2004, 2006a; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Mosher and Hermer 2005). As Dorothy Chunn and Shelley Gavigan (2004: 230) argue , the OW A resulted in a “blurring” of law and welfare, marking a “shift in direction of increased surveillance and criminalization of welfare recipients, notably women on welfare, [and] illustrates that the (coercive form of) crim inal law and (the regulatory form of) welfare law are inseparable.” PC politicians repeatedly inflated the scope of fraud in the province, claiming that one in five welfare recipients committed fraud, despite evidence gathered by the Ontario NDP , the Law Commission of Ontario, and academics, who found that the real figure was less than 1 percent (Chunn and Gavigan 2006a; Little 1998 ; Mosher and Hermer 2005 ). Between 2001 and 2002, fraud charges amounted to only 38 (or 0.1 percent) of the 38,000 investigations conducted (Mosher and Hermer 2005 ), and Toronto Social Services found that 80 percent of the fraud allegations they reviewed were unfounded (Toronto City Council 2002 ). The City of Toronto argued that Harris’ s anti-fraud measures were punitive, unnecessary, and excessive, citing potential human rights violations. The tragic death of Kimberly Rogers in 2001 while under house arrest for welfare fraud because she had collected welfare and Ontario student loans at the same time (previously allowed) prompted an inquest that resulted in the lifting of the lifetime suspension of benefits for welfare fraud. While both subs equent Liberal governments (McGuinty and Wynne, 2003–18) promised to undo some of the harms caused by Harris’ s welfare reforms, only minor revisions were made to the OWA . Liberal austerity measures, although not as dramatic, continued to erode what remained of the social safety net. The Liberals were less occupied with welfare fraud, as the an ti-fraud SDMT and CVP computer systems were already in place. However , reviews of OW expenditures indicated a new area for cost cutting discretionary benefits. Rather than recognizing that the depleted welfare rates (which had yet to recover from Harris’ s cuts) were woefully inadequate and that discretionary benefits were critically needed to help recipients stay housed and fed, these benefits became a concern and were said to be “misu sed.” A good example of this is the Special Diet Allowance ( SDA ). The SDA w as a discretion ary benefit up to $250 that ODSP and OW recipients could apply for by producing a medical professional’ s note if they had food allergies, intolerances, or other medical issues ( MCCSS 2016b). The SDA cost the Ontario Government $6 million in 2003; by 2011, thanks to the activists and medical allies who made the SDA a n avenue to wrest more support for the poor and push the government to raise welfare rates, the costs had ballooned to $240 million. While activists argued these figures show how badly these supports were needed, the government saw them as “wasteful.” In 2005, the social services minister accused medical practitioners of authorizing bogus claims for the SDA (Fer guson and Benzie 2005: A07). Welfare activists and medical allies did indeed offer SDA sign-up clinics across the province, but it was these medical professionals’ expert opinion that the health of beneficiaries was being jeopardized by inade quate welfare rates. 1 Ho wever , by helping the poor , these nurse practitioners and doctors were targeted as being dishonest and fraudulent, accusations usually reserved for recipients themselves. In 2014, one doctor was found guilty of professional misconduct (Gillis 2014). Soon after, the SDA was tightened, drawing on tried and true welfare surveillance tactics to enact stricter eligibility criteria, narrowing eligible medical conditions, and establishing an expert review committee to oversee the applications. The current Ford Conserv ative government (2018– present/2021) has revisited many of Harris’ s strategies for welfare reforms and “get tough” polices for fraud and workfare. Although not explicit ly named in ministry memos, welfare fraud is also a policy focus as Conservatives promise to “cut red tape and restore accountability” by enhancing the Eligibility Verif ication Process ( EVP ), the third -party review process for risk-based case audits ( MCCSS 201 9: 3; Crawley 2018). This includes more frequent audits of recipient files, which are currently risk-based and random, to a minimum of every two months (previously quarterly). This comes as no surprise, as Minister Lisa MacLeod requested an investigation into the “hundreds of millions of dollars” in welfare fraud in 2018 (Giovann etti and Younglai 2018). Even though the evidence overwhelmingly suggests these allegations are more myth than reality , attempts to combat so-called welfare fraud result in punitive and life-altering consequences for the poor . Welfare fraud continues to be the central argument for the expensive surveillance and anti-fraud measures that impact low-income single mothers today. As I discuss in Chapter 3, the threat of inv estigation and fear of being “red flagged” is a central worry of these mothers living on the economic margins. Workfar e in Ontario Workfare, steeped in the neoliberal ideology of individualism, promised to create efficient, job-ready individuals through a host of employment and training programs, life-skills assessments, and placement agencies. Although Quebec already had a voluntary work-for-welfare program, Ontario Works became the first mandatory work-for-welfare program in Canada. Individuals participating in workfare placements are denied the right to unio nize and are ineligible for employment benefits as it would violate the OW benefits and drug card eligibility . Compliance with workfare was and is strictly enforced, as “recipients who fail to honour their participation agreements are subject to financial penalties,” including benefit reductions for families and cancelled benefits for singles ( MCFCS 200 3: 23). Only mothers with children under the preschool age are exempt from workfare (see Chapter 2 for other extenuating circumstances). According to the caseworkers I interviewed for this study , under the PC Harris government, the enforcement was particularly harsh and was somewhat softened when the Liberals came to power in 2003. However , aside from some minor tweaks and allowances for more top-ups from part-time work and more flexibility around workfare activities, the OWA has not been significantly revised, and workfare continues to be a central policy and eligibility requirement to receive benefits in Ontario. The implications of workfare are significant — it is akin to the “modernization” of the nineteenth-century Houses of Industry, which were “instruments of social control and socialization, integral to the creation of a free capitalist labour market” (Rainer 1981 : 340). W orkfare brings the surveillance gaze back into focus as employe rs of workfare placements can and are expect(ed) to monitor and assess their workers’ progress. Today , new public management has encouraged an entire industry of delivery agencies, broker agencies, non- profits, private companies, and public-private partnerships to create what Valverde (1995) has called a profit-based “mixed social economy .” Whereas in the nineteenth century, government ceded some welfare delivery to the private sphere (predominately religious charities) in order to limit state welfare expenditures, under NPM , a neoliberal “mixed social economy ,” or what can be reimagined as the “McSocial economy,” has opened up publi c-private partnerships to allow private enterprises to extract profit from unemployed and precariously employed workers who are being pushed off of social assistance and into workfare. 2 O f course, this has also led to the supersizing of the nineteenth-century principle of less eligibility by creating a sep arate class of workers who are prohibited from unionizing and forced by the state to honour their work placements. Workfare itself has become a profitable industry for the broker agencies and employers involved. Broker agents work with OW and private companies (employers) to match low- income labour with various businesses (often large corporations, such as fast-food chains and call centres), providing capital with a constant pool of cheap labourers who are not allowed to organize and form unions (Vaillancourt 2010; MCCSS 2018 d; MCCSS 2016a). Broker agencies have typically been existing social service agencies; however, with various public-private partnerships, this role has opened up to the priva te sector and non-profits. As such, the details of what these broker agencies do varies and there appears to be less oversight; existing social services would have resources to assist with resume writing, job-specific skills training, and job development, whereas other agencies may solely focus on matching recipients with employers. Broker agents are expected to screen welfare recipients to match them with appropriate employers, job development, and hiring assistance — work that OW employment counsellors already do. In other words, not only do these private brokers do the same job as OW employment counsellors but for profit, they are also collecting private data from recipients participating in workfare and feeding it to the government. Surveillance of low-waged workers is central to the neoliberal McSocial economy. A closer look at the OW mandates of these broker agents reveals yet another layer of the welfare surveillance apparatus. Brokers are expected to comply with OW legislation and “monitor and provide information to delivery agents [Ontario Works] on a regular and time ly basis ; and collect information in an appropriate and verifiable manner” ( MCCSS 2018d). Recipients in workfare placements are surveilled and must answer to both their OW caseworker and the broker agency worker. To appease business interests, workfare policies provide financial incentives to employers, labour incentive agencies, non- profits, and charities to monitor and oversee the activities and retraining of welfare recipients (Vaillancourt 2010). These economically driven “incentive s” to offer “results” (moving the poor into the workforce and then off social assistance) have fundamentally altered the philosophy of welfare in Ontario by commodifying the regulation of poverty and subsidizing “private enterprise” to produce the ideal neoliberal “citizen.” Moreover, as Julie Vaillancourt (2010: 74) argues in Ontario Works — Works for Whom?, workfare programs morally regulate “recipients by instilling values of ‘hard work’ and ‘diligence,’” thereby individualizing poverty and ignoring the social barriers to paid employment. The linkages between state and workplace surveillance, privatization and the shrinking welfare state, and the business of retraining the poor with the intent to transform them are particularly alarming because these workers have little in the way of labour protections or rights. The Liberal government continued to privatize employment services in 2005 through a private-public partnership with British Columbia company the West Coast Group ( CUPE 2012 ; MCCSS 2008 ). This partnership resulted in the JobsNow pilot project, which essentially outsourced OW and ODSP employment services — such as job search, placement, and retention support — to a private company on a fee-for – performance model. The company’ s payments were obtained from the reduced social assistance payments (i.e., reduced caseloads). The pilot’ s main goal was to act as a network, connect recipients to the “hidden job market,” and help recipients get off of social assistance. Six municipalities took part in in the pilot project and 10,389 OW recipients were selected to participate. A final report on the pilot found that 3,294, or 32 percent, of recipients found paid employm ent; however , a majority of them made less than $10 per hour and over half of the jobs were part time ( MCCSS 2008 ). Overa ll, the program did not work any better than existing OW employment services, nor did it create any cost savings for the provincial government. In fact, this privatized job placement service cost the government $7.6 million in “performance fees.” In early 2020, Ford’s Conservative government proposed a similar Service System Managers pilot project, which would give municipalities, non- profits, and for-profit companies the opportunity to “bid” on managing OW and ODSP recipients enrolled in employment services ( CUPE 2020 ). The government claimed this would create a “seamle ss and effective” employment services system whereby new service managers would be paid based on their results and outputs. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE ) op posed this privatization, citing the lessons learned from the 2005 failed JobsNow pilot. Yet despite these failed attempts, the Ford government has gone ahead, with several municipalities signing on to the pilot project to contract out employment services and further entrenching the McSocial economy . As of April 2020, the Hamilton-Niagara region had commissioned Fedcap, an international non-profit specializing in vocational training. The NDP is concerned that the turn to a for -profit service will “erode social services and risks turning them into a ‘cash cow’” (T aekema 2020 ). In addit ion to privatizing employment services, the Ford government has pledged to revamp the OW system and increase “the expectations placed on Ontario Works offices to achieve improved employment and earnings outcomes with clients” (Middlesex County 2019). Workfare is of central concern to this government and they are finding creative ways to get buy-in, from offering more top-ups (additional earnings they are allowed to keep without financial penalty) to recipients. In 2019, Ford announced a major restructuring of the employment and training services provided to social assistance recipients, to move it out of the MCCSS and into Employment Ontario, which is housed under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (Government of Ontario 2019 ). Th is outsourcing will open the door for a host of organ izations (for-profit and non-profit) to compete and make bids to retrain welfare recipients (Kapoor 2020 ), which is reflective of the third princip le of NPM , to lesse n the role of the state. This restructuring, like previous reforms, sees welfare recipients as “failed workers” and not as individuals with particular needs or as a systemic issue of the labour market. The assumption that their lack of waged work can be “solved” by the private sector has historically failed the poor . Although the COVID -19 pandemic has put some of these initiatives on hold, there is no reason to think that the government’ s co mmitment to cutting costs on the backs of the poor has changed. Workfare raises a number of ethical concerns: it relocates public funding for the poor to private companies, it denies workers basic rights, and it implicitly (and explicitly) denies the importance of parenting and reproductive labour. Transferring public funding allocated for social assistance to a private company paradoxically does not save any money , as is often claimed by neoliberal adherents, but rather places public funding for social services into the hands of a for -profit business. For instance, the BC company hired for the JobsNow 2005 pilot was no better (and much more expensive) than similar services offered by existing social services and in the end was said to be a “failure” ( CUPE 2012 : 5). CUPE ’s report argued that privileging the “bottom line” is not reflective of recipients’ needs and is a further erosion of Keynesian-era needs-based entitlements: “One of the main criticisms of for- profit delivery of public services is that the provider ’s focus shifts from the needs of clients to ensuring increased profits” (CUPE 2012 : 5). Corporate demands trump recipients’ needs. A neoliberal McSocial economy is also reflective of the shrinking welfare state, whereby the state is less inclined to take responsibility for ensuring that there are adequate supports and a safety net in place for low-income people. This forces casewor kers to focus more on surveillance and compliance rather than employment supports (see Chapter 5). Workfare is also a digression from how the state has typically viewed single mothers on social assistance — from mothering as a mode to citizenship to dependency as a mode of disentitlement. As feminist scholar Little claims, “For the first time in the histo ry of welfare in Canada, poor single mothers are now considered paid workers, in some instances completely interchangeable with single childless adults. This development is what some feminist scholars call the gender blind nature of neoliberal policy” (2011: 202). Workfare discounts the vital social reproductive activities that mothers do — the unpaid labour to care for children, extended family, and even volunteer work and activism in their communities (Bezanson and Luxton 2006; Breikreuz 2005; Fitzgerald 2004; McMullin, Davis, and Cassidy 2002; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Little 2011; Torjman 1996; Vaillancourt 2010). Using this expanded understanding of work, single mothers were already working; however, OW ignored their unpaid labour and instead encouraged them to put their children in care and take on precarious, poorly paid, service-sector employment. “Modernization” and Privatization In its att empts to pull Ontario out of the recession of the early 1990s, the Harris government concentrated on reducing welfare caseload s through austerity measures. However, with the unsophisticated welfare system and technologies then in place, they were unable to monitor recipients as closely as they wished. In 1995, the PC government met with Accenture, a multibillion-dollar , offshore corporation specializing in software design, surveillance, cyber-security and outsourcing services, to discuss plans to “modernize” Ontario’s welfare services (Accenture 2010; Daniels and Ewart 2002). This outsourcing strategy reflects both the second and third principles of NPM : ch anging the technology of governments and reducing the role of the state through the free market. Accenture’ s bid won the MCCSS request for proposals to develop new surveillance technologies and to streamline and automate welfare services in On tario. Accenture’ s philosophy , steeped in neoliberalism and NPM , promised to develop “programs that feature excellent customer service, information on demand, and modern technology . Creating efficient programs would also save taxpayers money” (Accenture 2010). To accelerate the development of centralized computer systems, the government entered the Common C ause Procurement ( CCP ) agreem ent with Accenture and formally signed the Business Transforma tion Project ( BTP ) in 1997. The CCP ideologically falls in line with Harris’ s “Common Sense Revolution” and its aim to shrink the welfare state and outsource public services. The contract would ultimately make Accenture a business partner that would extract profit from savings realized by streamlining and reducing caseloads via the software that they would design. Arguably , this gave Accenture a financial incentive to come up with algorithms that cut caseload s by ensuring that a substantial percentage of applicants would be designated ineligible and “undeserving” (Maki 2020). This “modern” surveillance system, then, was developed to reduce welfare costs through harsher eligibility criteria, algorithmic surveillance, automations, and more frequent file reviews (see Chapter 2). The C anadian Union of Public Employees, representing over 11,000 OW caseworkers across the province of Ontario, warned the MCCSS about the company’ s shad y history . Accenture had rebranded itself and dropped its former name, the Anderson Corporation, after US media reported that Anderson was guilty of widespread corruption and negligence in their development of centr alized computer systems for social services in Ohio (“Ohio Works”), Nebraska, and New York, but its concerns were ignored ( CUPE 2 003; Drew 2001 ; Sidoti 2001; Sullivan 2007; Girard 2003). Accenture’ s mismanagement exacted hefty consequences, particularly for recipients, who may have faced wrongful termination of contracts or financial losses. In some cases, recipients were penalized or did not receive their benefits due to computer glitches and technological failures (Sullivan 2007), foreshadowing the issues that would haunt Ontario Works’ partnership with Accenture. Accenture developed the main database and electronic surveillance interface, which included the Service Delivery Model Technology ( SDMT ) and Consoli dated Verificati on Process ( CVP ) tec hnologies. Developing these technologies, it was estimated, would cost $50–$70 million and the BTP stipulated that the MCCSS and Accenture would equally “share risks” and “benefits.” As costs mounted, the MCCSS capped payments to Accenture at $180 million (OAG 2009) . However , the MCCSS ended up covering numerous additional costs as a result of delays, faulty technology , and other issues and consequently lost out on the promised savings of the new system even though this was one of the primary rationales for the developmen t of this software in the first place. Indeed, the NDP “ac cused the government of ‘poor bashing’ … if it wants to save money , the government should rethink a controversial contract it has with Andersen Consulting [Accenture] for the streamlining of the welfare program” (Lindgren 2000 ). Unlike the PCs, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty’ s (2003–13) stance on poverty included some progressive elements, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014–19) , as well as the continuation of NPM ef forts to modernize public services via public-private partnerships (Government of Ontario 2008). In the wake of the recession (2008–09), the Liberal McGuinty government continued the trend of “modernizing” OW and championing neoliberal policy, outsourcing, and bolstering welfare surveillance. These efforts included three principal strategies: the Ontario Public Service Case Management Reference Model, a contract with Cúram Software to develop the new Social Assistance Management System [ SAMS ] software, and initiating welfare debit cards. The Ontario Public Service ( OPS ) mo del was positioned as a key conn ector between business and government technologies. The OPS ’s “In formation and Technology Standards” claimed that more public services are moving toward a “case management business model … [which is] a complex business transformation that can be supported by automated tools” (Office of the Corporate Chief Technology Officer 2008: 6). Neoliberal ideology and surveillance are at the very heart of the model. Additionally , the McGuinty government proposed to modernize and “fix” Accent ure’s outdated and inefficient SDMT , which was less than ten years old. Cúram Software (later purchased by IBM ) wa s hired in 2010 to pro vide social services technology to promote “self-sufficiency.” Cúram’ s technology promised to be more user-friend ly, reduce the “workarounds” (additional steps needed to nav igate inefficient software and errors), and allow for more face time with recipients ( IBM 2015). However , the underlying principles of Cúram’ s SAMS technology differed little from Accenture’ s SDMT — it tracked the life cycle of recipients, provided third-party verification, data mined information, automated eligibility criteria, and assesse d risks — in other words, surveillance. In 2017, the Liberal Wynne (2013–18) government released the full costs of outsourcing to Cúram. Originally estimated at $202.3 million, the Ontario Auditor General report cited costs surpassing $294 million and forecast an additional $50 million per year to sustain SAMS . T he report also found over 11 4,000 errors in the client’ s data that resulted in erroneous decisions for eligibility and benefits. The results of these errors included $140 million ($89 million in potential overpayments and $51 million in potential underpayments). Yet IBM and Cúram consultants continued to profit and were paid daily rates as high as $2,000 (Ontario Auditor General 2017: 160, 164). Once again, a public-private partnership failed to save the Ontario governm ent any money and in fact ended up costing far more. An already multimillion-dollar company managed to profit from their government contract, while recipients bore the burden and stress of having to manage missed payments for expenses like rent as well as repayments to the province if they had been issued an accidental overpayment. Several projects are underway to continue to “modernize” and “streamline” services, but none have consulted in a meaningful way with recipients or caseworkers, nor have they recognized the lessons of the past. In 2012, under the Wynne Liberals, welfare debit cards were introduced in Toronto in 2012 to replace paper cheques. As of 2021, they are being rolled out across the province. The 2019 Conservative budget included funds to pilot a new online platform for OW recipients called MyBenefits. It is a 24/7, real-time online portal that allows recipients to see their status, future payments, and letters as well as to report changes to their income status. Chapter 2 explores the surveillance and regulatory implications of these technologies. CONCLUSION For over two hundred years, Ontario’ s poor have struggled not just with their economic disadvantages, but with a liberal state that has proved reluctant to provide social assistance, offloaded responsibility to private companies and charitable organizations, characterized poverty as an individual failing, means tested social assistance based on deservedness, and predicated all their limited interventions on avoiding disruption of a “free labour market” in which workers should seek poorly paid, precarious jobs before receiving a government “handout.” Single mothers have been further stigmatized by intensive and invasive surveillance into their private lives as a means to push them into marriage and/or low-paying work and keep them of f the welfare rolls. Tracing the history of the Ontario poor laws to the contemporary Ontario Works program shows the different ways that the state recognizes and addresses poverty among single mothers. The thread that connects early poor laws and Mothers’ Allowance to contemporary social assistance is the state’ s surveillance, social control, and moral regulation. While some of the techniques of regulation have changed with the adva ncement of technology , the purpose and intent has not. A system of heg emonic regulation — including a hierarchy of deservedness, principles of less eligibility , and rituals of degradation — is now embedded in the technologies to monitor the poor and, as we shall see in Chapter 2, built into the algorithms that assess riskiness to commit fraud and non- compliance. By the late 1980s and into the twenty-first century, Ontario single mothers on social assistance found themselves at the centre of a “wa r on the poor ,” a neoliberal retrenchment of needs-based welfare, and a technological and social revolution in how they were surveilled, forced into work, and disentitled. Under neoliberal NPM , a McSo cial economy opened up public- private partnersh ips wherein the needs of private corporations, taxpayers, and an austerity-bent government mattered more the needs of the poor themselves. A McSocial economy sought profit and the dubious promise of cost savings from workfare programs (single mothers on welfare were no longer excused from paid work) and computerized surveillance tools to investigate the intimate and private lives of social assistance recipients in ways far more invasive and exhaustive than the tools available to the House of Industry superintendent or the OMA social worker . The onset of the global COVID -19 pandemic in March 2020 brought many social issues bubbling to the surface, including the growing gap between the rich and poor, the surveillance and criminalization of the socially and economically disenfranchised (L uscombe and McClelland 2020; Bain, Dryden, and Walcott 2020), and the failure of social policy to support the most marginalized. The Conservative government under Ford has continued to erode the social safety net and has promised to overhaul Ontario Works — Ontario’ s 2019 budget proposed $1 billion in cuts to OW and the ODSP (Russell 2019) . These cuts have been suspen ded (for now) due to fierce opposition and different prioriti es as governments respond to the pandemic. The poor continue to be positi oned as less deserving than paid workers. In March 2020, the federal government responded to the loss of jobs during phase one of the lockdown with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ( CERB ), to provide financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who were directly affected by COVID -19 (job loss, exhausted employment insurance, temporary closure of workplaces, etc.). The CERB allotted $2 ,000 per applica nt — almost three times the amoun t that is provided to single recipients ($733) on Ontario Works and double that given to single parents ($1,002), not including the maximum Ontario Child Benefit which brings it to $1,1 19 monthly (Income Security Advisory Centre 2020; MCCSS 2 020b). The CERB was rolled out quickly and without the built-in surveillance and compliance measures seen in social assistance. Evidently not all income supports from the state require punitive welfare surveillance measures accompanied by rituals of degradation. The fact that non-waged workers are not seen as deserving of government support vividly demonstrates a hierarchy of deservedness. The only thing the Ontario government has done to support social assistance recipients during the pandemic is to issue a one-time, needs-based discretionary COVID -19 Emergency Benefit for OW and ODSP recipients ( MCCSS 2020a). This miniscule benefit provides a maximum amount of $100 for singles and $200 for families to cover personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies for those diagnosed with COVID – 19, delivery or travel costs for food if self-isolating, and additional costs for food as a result of food scarcity ( MCCSS 2020a: 2). COVID -19 has exposed the cracks in an already fragile social safety net; however , none of these problems are new. The poor are still having to fight for every cent, still experiencing heightened levels of surveillance and policing in their neighbourhoods, and still positioned as those who least deserve financial support. Notes 1. For a timeline on the cuts to the Special Diet Allowance, see Bonnar 2010. 2. For further reading on “McJobs,” see Ritzer 1993. 2: M ap pin g t h e W elf a re S urv eilla n ce A ppara tu s Rather than a system intended to monitor eligibility , which is no more or less than one would expect in a social assistance system, we have termed the new system one of ongoing surveillance. (Herd and Mitchell 2003: 5) T he neoliberal welfare turn in Ontario alongside advancements in surveillance- driven technolo gies have led to significant political, social, and technological transformations that have brought forth a new era of regulating the poor . Neoliberal policies zeroed in on public service accountability , efficiencies, and streamlining, employing new practices and technologies to manage Ontario Works recipients and frontline caseworkers in ways that were largely out of reach with previous systems. These practices were developed during a time of heighten ed anti-poor , anti-immigrant, and misogynistic backlash against welfare recipients, who were often automatically suspected of fraud and abusing the system. Tracking, intensive monitoring, increased documentation, and technology that could predict potential fraud were seen as the ultimate solutions to cut welfare rolls. However , the poor were not the only targets for surveillance — caseworkers’ labour was also of great concern to managers, and they were pressured by neoliberal governments to take on new performance measures, quotas, timelines, reporting, and other “efficiencies.” These new practices not only altered the work caseworkers did but also placed them under workplace surveillance. The revamped welfare surveillance apparatus that emer ged reflects the first neoliberal principle of new public management — changing the machinery or the technology and bureaucracy of governments. Governments were drawn to the private sector by its promises to solve their budgeting issues, reduce administ rative costs, save time, make systems more efficient, and manage the increasingly vast amounts of data collected about low-income populations. As we know , we lfare reforms involved outsourcing and privatization agreements with large IT corporations (Accenture, IBM Cúr am) to deve lop the electronic interfaces, computer software, and databases that would form the core of the “modernized” welfare surveillance apparatus and separate it from previous methods of monitoring the poor . These ideological undercurrents are important as they politically contextualize how and why these technologies were developed. While the techniques to surveil the poor have evolved, there is nothing new about the public- private partnerships to regulate the poor . In several ways, the Ontario government has revived the mixed-social economy (McSocial economy) to further “downsize” and reform social assistance programs, outsourcing the surveillance and subsequent regulation of the poor beyond the state. The welfare surveillance apparatus connects government, non- government, charity, and private organizations as well as citizens through a network of interconnected neoliberal policies, partnerships, and technology . Indeed, the Ontario government has found “innovati ve” ways to create a market in the realm of welfare delivery and administration. This chapter is primarily descriptive, drawing on content analysis I conducted on the Ontario Works Act , 1997 regulations and directives, as well as informal and formal interviews with OW senior management, policy analysts, and case managers. This chapter tackles the nuts and bolts that structure the welfare surveillance apparatus, which refers to the interconnect ed systems of surveillance — whether policy and bureaucracy , home visits, and even community surveillance — encompassing both state and non-state actors. This multilayered surveillance apparatus empowers technology, bur eaucracy , and human surveillance to gather , sort, and categorize the deserving and undeserving poor. Welfare surveillance is not neutral — the power to categorize has real impacts on people’ s daily lives and creates distinctive power relations that are infused with moral judgment and that resonate with Ontario’ s poor laws and first welfare programs. The welfare surveillance apparatus points to the relationships between these differing layers of surveillance and intervention. While I’m mapping the specific systems of welfare surveillance here, I’m not disconnecting them from the political-economic context, nor am I dismissing the role of humans (the surveillance workers and recipients) and their subjectivity in understanding everyday welfare surveillance. As Gavin Smith cautions, “the association of surveillance operation/production with systemic functionalism and automatization … overly (and unproblematically) exaggerates the agency and bureaucratic rationality of the system, while stripping away the agency and value/af fective rationality of the actor” ( 2012 : 109 ). The study of welfare surveillance is just as much a study about the human relationships, interactions, and power relations (including resistance), which I contextualize by drawing on in-depth interviews in Chapters 3–6. SUR VEILLANCE AND D ISCRIMINATION Sophisticated surveillance systems based on risk categorization and predictive analytics to monitor and subsequently regulate behaviou r have led social scientists to investigate the “scientific neutrality” of these technologies and examine how and in what ways they promote “social sorting” and discrimination (Lyon 2003; Gandy 2006; Henman and Marston 2008; Gilliom 2001; Eubanks 2017; Barocas and Selbst 2016; Noble 2018; Yeung 2018; Monahan 2009; Maki 2020). Oscar Gandy (2006), for instance, claims that the different types of surveillan ce designated for various populations are in themselves a form of discrimination. In relation to social assistance programs, Paul Henman and Greg Marston (2008: 192, 194) explain this phenomenon as the “social division of welfare surveillance,” whereby certain populations are targeted for more and different types of monitoring. They argue that in the neoliberal era, “the governance of social problems demands a capacity to target and track subpopulations to calculate individual and social risk, and in turn to regulate their behaviour .” Algorithmic surveillance and automations are particularly insidious as discrimination is lar gely hidden, unknown to the individuals under surveillance or society as a whole (Gilliom 2001; Yeung 2018). Other scholars have examined the ramifications of algorithms on intersections of gender , race, and, class. Virginia Eubanks’ ( 2017) US study found that welfare system automations produced by algorithmic and data-mining technologies are classed and target the poor in ways that are discriminatory and punitive. The Indiana Client Eligibility System, for example, was a computer system designed to automate eligibility and the administration of Medicaid and welfare benefits. Excessive documentation, inflexibility in dealing with system errors, and predictive analytics denied eligible individuals critical assistance they needed for their basic needs and drove them further into poverty (Eubanks 2017). A study on California’ s anti-discrimination law found that algorithmic surveillance such as data mining actually reinforces “pre-existing patterns of exclusion and inequality” as these beliefs are so embedded in American society that they are often unconsciously programmed into algorithms (Barocas and Selbst 2016 : 671). Similarly , Safiya Noble’s (2018: 1, 4, 5) anti-racist analysis examined the racial bias embedded in algorithms built into search engines, which she terms “technological redlining” to bring into focus the ways that “digital decision s reinforce oppressive social relationships and enact new modes of racial profiling.” Racism and sexism are inherent to what she terms “algorithmic oppression,” whereby Google searches of “Black girls” put racist and misogynistic results at the top of the list, including sexualized violence and child pornography . In addit ion to social sorting and discrimination, algorithmic surveillance is fundamentally regulatory in nature. Governments have embraced this type of surveillance and the “rise of automated data-driven systems to inform decision making and regulate behaviour .… In their broadest sense, algorithms are encoded procedures for solving a problem by transforming input data into a desired output” (Yeung 2018: 506). Specifically relevant to the study of Ontario Works, the use of “pre-emptive algorithmic systems” highlights how policy and ideological commitments result in risk-based regulation “at the level of inspection and monitoring in which risk-based approaches are adopted in order to identify potential violations and violators of regulatory standards” (Yeun g 2018: 511). In public administration, both the public and practitioners assume that these technologies and automations will catch and deter fraud and crime (W ebster 2012). This growing body of research demonstrates the multitude of ways in which social inequality is itself becoming automated and designed into social programs that are supposed to be “helping” those in need. This inequality occurs against a backdrop of colonial, white supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalist oppression that differ ently affects poor people and those living at dif ferent and often overlapping intersections of disability, race, gender , and class. Welfare surveillance is neither apolitical nor neutral. Human and computer -based surveillance practices are ripe with bias and misconceptions about the poor , as well as moral regulation and discriminatory practices inherited from some of the earliest policies to address poverty (poor laws, Ontario Mothers’ Allowance). TECHNOLOGICAL S URVEILLANCE AND R EGULATION As mentioned, technological developments in welfare services have sped up the processing and collection of vast amounts of data, automated eligibility , coded algorithms to alert systems of predetermined risks, and allowed the sharing of information across government departments in real time. Moreover , what also separates contemporary welfare surveillance from earlier practices is that these moral, paternalistic, and discriminatory assumptions about poverty are embedded in the algorithmic coding attached to databases and computer software. In what follows, I review the three key computer -based surveillance technologies (and their adaptations) that have enhanced human and file-based surveillance within social assistance programs, which for the first time involved complex real-time and continuous risk-based algorithms to catch fraud and sort non- compliance. Since file-based surveillance remains a central focus of OW in determining ongoing eligibility, detailed record keeping is a major task of caseworkers. With advancements in technology , specifically more powerful databases and computer software, paper-based filing has largely become obsolete. The intent to compile and organize lar ge amounts of data about recipients remains, but it is now electronic and centralized in a main database. Over a five-year contract (1998–2002), the Ontario government hired Accenture to develop the SDMT provincial delivery system, which promised to reduce duplicate applications, create a two-step application system, include third-party verification, and provide streamlined service delivery (Herd and Mitchell 2003). It went live in 2001 but was short lived and replaced in 2008 with a new variation — the Social Assistance Management ( SAMS ) sy stem from IBM Cúram. Both technologies promised to cut costs and uncover welfare fraud using data-mining systems and risk-based algorithms. In addition, the technologies ( SDMT and SAMS ) could initiate third-party checks to track and monitor recipients (banks, Equifax, Canada Revenue Agency, EI, etc.), workfare participation (attendance records, certificate upgrades, etc.), addictions treatments (doctor’s notes and attendance records), and any additional documentation requested ( MCCSS 2019b, 2.1–5). Both systems also documented all internal or external referrals for fraud investigations and any such referrals could be reviewed by the fraud unit ( MCCSS 2016d). Basically , the systems created a permanent, continuous electronic case file that worked in real time to verify ongoing eligibility using automations and risk analytics that assessed risk for non-compliance and fraud. The software also issued automated letters for infringements (overpayments, allegations of fraud, case file updates) or meeting requests. A major problem with the autom ated features of all of these systems was that they frequentl y prevented caseworkers from meeting the unique and changing needs of their clients (see Chapter 5). The digital system was inflexible, designed in a way that ignored the unstable realities of living in poverty — precarious service-sector work, job hours and childcare costs that varied, late child support payments (especially if the parent is also living in poverty), and precarious housing because many low-income individuals move often and face rental fee changes. I soon found out that these realities of poverty are actual “red flags,” or algorithmic surveillance built into the electronic file systems that used predefined codes to predict whether a recipient was likely to be non-compliant. In either case, it set in motion letters, reviews, and potential suspension of benefits if the recipient neglected to meet with their caseworker about the issue with their file. For example, the Consolidated V erification Process ( CVP ) wa s an automated surveillance tool that standardized case reviews by flagging files based on predi ctive analytics of a recipient’ s potential to commit welfare fraud or be non-compliant ( MCCSS n.d.c., n.d.d.). It altered the case-review processes from being time based (four meetings per year) to risk based, which could result in numerous assessment meetings depending on how often their file was flagged by the system (Herd and Mitchell 2003). At the time of the study , many offices were equipped with a CVP unit comprised of caseworkers whose main job was to review and assess the files alerted by the system. However , in 201 1, yet another cost-saving measure was implemented: OW reorganized the CVP into the EVP , downloading the responsibility for reviewing the eligibility of “risky” clients onto caseworkers. The more risks that an individua l case accumulates, the more potential there is for review s, follow-up meetings, and investigations. The EVP a lso works with electronic file-based surveillance and has considerably increased the amount of data entry and documentation to prove ongoing eligibility. In informal interviews, I asked OW management and senior policy analysts how these risk categories are decided. They shared that it was based on the current economic climate, such as levels of une mployment, labour market trends, and cost of living, as well as any changes in a recipient’ s file. There are many potential “risk flags,” such as a recent move, high rental fees, a change in relationship status, application to post- secondary education, having a roommate, being on assistance for more than thirty-six months, and being a single parent who does not receive child support ( MCCSS n.d.a., n.d.d., 2016 c). Commenting on this softwar e, Dean Herd and Andrew Mitchell argue, “Rather than a system intended to monitor eligibility , which is no more or less than one would expect in a social assistance system, we have termed the new system one of ongoing surveillance ” (2003: 5, emphasis added). When we break down the categories associated with risk, we can see the ways that discrimination is embedded into algorithm codes — specifical ly that changes to income, relationship status, and housing alert the system. For example, being a single mother on social assistance (as they make up the vast majority of sole parents on OW) in itself is considered a risk and is automatically flagged for more frequent file reviews. Housing instability , which is a common experience among the poor , is also deemed risky. While none of the single mothers I interviewed were recent immigrants or refugees, one could presume that immigration and refugee status would also be considered a risk in the system ( Mirchandani and Chan 2007). As expla ined previously , socially sorting individuals in this way has differing outcomes on the services they receive, as well as being discriminatory (Lyon 2003; Henman and Marston 2008; Monahan 2010). The implications of these codes and automations are gend ered and classed — being poor and a single mother earmarks people as undeserving, suspect, or subject to intensive regulation by social services. Arguably , the automations and risk-based algorithms sort recipients “to enable the regulator to undertake more precise, targeted, and efficient interventions” (Yeung 2018: 512) along class, race, and gender lines. Clearly , welfare surveillance is much more than just watching — its intent is to regulate the poor . While most caseworkers agree that some documentation should be required to obtain financial assistance, many find the current standards excessive. Indeed, it was described to me by the mother s I interviewed as a source of constant frustration, reminding us of the rituals of degradation designed to discourage people from remaining on social assistance. Many recipients experience difficulties due to documentation that is lost, expensive to obtain, or withheld by a third party. For example, recent immigrants and refugees may have lost paperwork during civil wars or natural disasters; women escaping domestic violence may have had their documents destroyed or stolen by ex-partners, and those who move frequently may have lost their documents or they are not locally available if they have changed municipal jurisdictions (Little 1998; Mirchandani and Chan 2007). Mirchandani and Chan’s (2007: 72) research on welfare fraud in Ontario and British Columbia included interviews with recipients of colour; they uncovered numerous examples of race-based discrimination and monitoring, specifically CVP documentation barriers and additional requests to “prove” their deservedness, identity , and circumstances. This is a form of discrimination, whereby “racializing surveillan ce as a technology of social control … signals those moments when enactment of surveillance reify boundaries and borders along racial lines, and where the outcome is often discriminatory treatment” (Browne 2012: 72). In addi tion to unnecessary documentation requirements, another key anti-fraud technology designed by Accenture, currently still in use, is the automated Maintenance Enforcement Computer Assistance ( MECA ) application, which accesses third-party databases to cross-reference submitted documents. As part of their intake appointment, recipients must sign a fre edom-of-information form allowing OW to access third-party information to verify their identity and assets ( MCFCS 2003 ). OW has data-sharing agreements with a plethora of provincial government departments, such as the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Public Safety and Security , Ministry of Advan ced Education and Skills Development, the W orkplace Safety and Insurance Board, and employment insurance, as well as Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency ( MCFCS 2003; MCCSS 2017). Additionally , MECA em powers OW to request information from other provinces and federal- level data (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Servic e Canada). MECA ’s power does not end there — it can request additional information about recipients from the Insurance Crime Prevention Bureau, the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MacVicar 2006). This electronic surveillance empowers OW to drastically widen its monitoring the poor in a manner that was impossible with older methods that relied on caseworkers’ suspicions, written records, and home investigations. The shift to large- scale data-sharing across multiple jurisdictions and departments is what Roger Clarke (1994) refers to as “dataveillance ,” which means that individuals are being not necessarily being watched by people, but their personal data is constantly tracked and stored, shared and flagged across multiple government institution s and databases (Pleace 2007; Henman and Marston 2008; Lyo n 2004). My study , along with others, such as Pleace (2007) and Gilliom (2001), found that recipients of welfare often feel powerless over how their data is shared and processed across various agencies, yet they had little recourse as it was obligato ry to maintain their eligibility for assistance. A final technology embedded in the welfare surveillance apparatus is biometrics. Biometric technologies use the physiological characteristics of individuals — fingerprints, DNA , or facial features — to verify their identity through practices like DNA testing, facial recognition, and iris scanning. Biometrics are explicitly designed for surveillance. They are not currently used by OW but legislatively remain in the OWA (Part V 75–76 ).1 In 1996, the City of Toronto introduced a pilot study asking social assistance recipients to voluntarily test out new finger -scanning biometric technology . Biometric finger scanning places all recipients under the same level of mistrust and suspicion. As a result of protests from anti- poverty activists and warnings from the privacy commissioner , the pilot project was scrapped (see my concluding chapter). MORAL S URVEILLANCE AND R EGULATION Moral surveillance refers primarily to human surveillance within OW that involves scrutinizing recipients’ behaviour by caseworkers and other authorit ies. This encompasses a wide range of behaviours and includes monitoring spending habits, relationships, parenting, life skills, job readiness assessments, and addictions treatments (Caragata 2008; Little 2001; Maki 2015). It involves more insidious face-to-face monitoring of recipients through case reviews, assessments, investigations, and meetings, and this occurs in tandem with file-based and computer surveillance ( SAMS , EVP ) to prompt caseworkers to constantly update recipients’ files, which are levelled against risk criteria searching for non-compliance. It also includes community surveillance that brings non-state actors into the fold of monitoring the poor and demonstrates the far reach of the welfare surveillance apparatus. Moral regulation plays a significant role in the welfare surveillance apparatus, whether computer- or human-based, and reflects a long-standing tradition of anti-poor sentiment. As we know from Little’ s (1998) work, poor single mothers were always monitored and expected to prove they were “deserving,” yet prior to the neoliberal era, the focus on fraud was not as central. To bolster the obsession with welfare fraud under Harris that is embedded in the welfare surveillance apparatus, the neoliberal governance shift in the 1990s had to expand the ideological notion of “undeserving” to the point where no one on welfare is deserving no matter how “good,” “independent,” or “hardworking” they are. Chunn and Gavigan’ s (2004, 2006b) critical research demonstrates that moral regulation is integral to welfare law and the policing of welfare fraud while law is also integral to shaping dominant conceptions of morality . More specifically , law is a key way that dominant moral norms are underlined, emphasized, and capped. Chunn and Gavigan argue that through welfare fraud criminalization, single mothers are reimagined and demonized as morally suspect and incapable of self-regulation (also see Fudge and Cossman 2002). Such criminalization has also been greatly expanded to include an increasing array variables that would or could be considered “fraud” — even overpayments and government errors have become the fault and responsibi lity of the recipient to remedy (MCCSS 201 9c). As such, they suggest that “this shift in the direction of increased surveillance and criminalization of welfare recipients, notably women on welfare, illustrates [that] the (coercive form of) criminal law and the (regulatory form) of welfare law are inseparable” (Chunn and Gavigan 2004: 230). While technological surveillance is deemed to be “scientific,” moral surveillance is often unabashedly classist, sexist, and racist as it depends on individual caseworker biases, which reflect larger workplace cultures of suspicion of recipients (see Morris et al. 2018). Several caseworkers I spoke with shared numerous examples of colleagues who belittled and judged recipients and in some cases were just plain mean — who went above and beyond to “prove” fraud. Although these informal surveillance practices lack the universal, omnipresent power of large databases and automated features, they can and do affect recipients’ everyday lives in significant ways. In the next section, I examine how moral surveillance regulates recipients in five fundamental ways: monitoring workfare, welfare fraud hotlines and community surveillance, relationship status, fraud units, and addictions treatment. Workfar e, Welfar e Fraud, and Community Surveillance Monitoring workfare participation involves several layers of oversight from caseworkers, employment counsellors, and job placement employers. Participation agreements (PAs) are contracts, or what OW calls “action-oriented plans,” that stipulate the employment-rela ted activities recipients are required to complete to receive their monthly benefits. PAs are signed during the intake appointment after discussion with the caseworker . If applicants refuse to sign the PA, they become ineligible for assistance. Most importantly , PAs allow caseworkers to continually monitor recipients’ “progress” for ongoing eligibility purposes ( MCCSS 2016c: 5, 2016e). The “outcome plan” outlines the activities and is also uploaded into SAMS . The legislation provides limited information about what participation activities may be required. Interviews with caseworkers and employment counsellors indicated that employment-related activities can include résumé workshops, job searc hes, English as a s econd language classes, upgrading high school credits, personal skills workshops, volunteer placements, addiction treatment, and part-time work placements. Caseworkers can monitor attendance records using the Client Booking System, an in-house technology that tracks recipient s’ participation in all mandatory activities. Unexplained absences may result in a suspension or termination of benefits. Workfare, participation agreements, and attendance tracking have further entrenched and normalized the ongoing surveillance of recipients, prompting disciplinary measures when they are non-compliant. If recipients deviate from their PA and do not fulfill the agreed-upon activities, benefits can be suspended or terminated because they are deemed non-compliant; a single applicant will be suspended and families will have their benefits reduced for one month for the first violation and then three months for subsequent violations ( MCCSS 2016e). Only single mothers with preschool-aged children are exempt from workfare activities. Temporary deferrals may be obtained but require documentation that demonstrates the exceptional circumstance, such as changing childcare duties, family emergencies, caregiving responsibilities for those over sixty- five years of age, illness or disability , pregnancy , or family violence. 2 T he decision to allow an excep tion is lar gely up to the discretion of a director or manager who is unlikely to have had any personal contact or communication with the recipient. In 1995, Premier Harris established anonymous welfare fraud hotlines that are still in operation today. This anti-fraud deterrence measure encourages the public to report people they suspect to have committed welfare fraud. The hotlines are managed out of a call centre where callers’ anonymous reports are neither recorded nor transcribed, yet they are deemed sufficient to prompt investigations. According to the City of Toronto, in 2014 every call to the fraud hotlines was followed up by caseworkers, eligibility review officers, or the fraud unit. The extent to which calls were followed up was confirmed by the caseworkers I interviewed. The fraud hotlines link poverty , social assistance , criminality , and the surveillance gaze as the public is invited to partake in “community surveillance” (Gilliom 2001; Kohler -Hausmann 2007) — a form of peer -to-peer monitoring that encourages neighbours and community members to report suspicious behaviour to various state authorities. Single mothers on social assistance interviewed in Gilliom’ s ( 2001: 89) study shared how community surveillance functions as “perpetual potential blackmail” and had devastating consequences on their lives. Many feminist and anti-racist scholars have examined the sexist and racist motivations behind many welfare fraud “tips” (Bannerji 2000; Chunn and Gavigan 2004, 2006a; Kohler- Hausmann 2007; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Mosher et al. 2004). Julilly Kohler-Hausmann’ s (2007) research on the criminalization of welfare fraud and subsequent stigmatization of welfare recipients gives us some insight into how race and gender have shaped anti-fraud measures. Her research, based in Illinois, reveals how welfar e became linked to fraud in explicitly gendered and racialized ways by the media and politicians, such as depictions of “welfare queens” as inherently criminal. Community surveillance mechanisms created a climate of suspicion that further perpetuated sexist and racist stereotypes that justified intrusion into poor people’ s personal lives: “Their participation, however, further legitimized the state’ s campaign and added another technique by which poor families were monitored (2007: 34). Similarly , as Cana dian feminist anti-racist scholar Himani Bannerji (2000: 72) asserts, “This ‘snitch line’ violates human dignity/human rights, creates a state of legal surveillance, and organizes people into vigilante-style relationships with one another . It brings racism and sexism to a boiling point by stimulating an everyday culture of racist sexism, and it creates an atmosphere that can only be described as fascistic.” The hotlines function to “other” welfare recipients by subjecting them to public scrutiny of thei r daily activities and survival strategies. This denies recipients their privacy rights and intensifies cultures of distrust, fear, surveillance, and control within and beyond social assistance systems — seeping into their communities and homes . As the following chapters discuss, single mothers live in fear that they will be reported for mundane activities, which contributes to feeling unsafe in their own homes. The women I interviewed felt the pressure of this oversight and worried about their neighbours watching their every move. They felt exposed and vulnerable to judgment and had in some ways internalized this community surveillance by changing the way they interacted with neighbours, limiting the amount of time a partner (if they had one) spent at their place, and being careful about the quantity of groceries or other purchased goods they brought home. According to feminist legal scholars, two disturbing trends have emerged in fraud hotlines reports that have had disproportionate impacts on women and single mothers. First, individuals who have grudges with recipients (disgruntled neighbours, ex-partners) may be inclined to call a hotline as an act of revenge (Mosher and Hermer 2005: 13). For instance, single women receiving assistance disclosed that their ex- partners called the fraud hotlines to further harass them (Mosher et al. 2004). The second most frequently reported issue to welfare fraud hotlines was regarding “spouse in the house” violations — allegations that single women are living with a new or former partner yet claiming single status to receive more assistance (Mosher 2011). Under the OWA , Section 59 (“spouse in the hous e”), recipients are required to fill out a lengthy questionnaire to determine if their relationship with a housemate is “marriage-like” regardless of gender , to include same-sex couples. It asks about assets and finances and who pays for items like basic utilities, rent, food, and phones. Information on childcare is also requested if there are childr en in the home. Neglecting to inform their caseworker of their relationship status may result in criminal proceedings as they are “guilty of an offence” (OW A , Section 79). The single mothers I spoke with were acutely aware of this continued scrutiny and were careful about engaging in new relationships as well as co-parenting arrangements with their ex-partners. To keep up with the reports to the hotlines, OW offices have a de signated fraud unit equipped with a team of eligibility review officers ( ERO s) to investigat e allegations of welfare fraud. I made several requests to interview ERO s and was unsurprisingly denied by management. ERO s provide reports based on their investigation to determine ongoing eligibility , identify overpayments or arrears, and recommend whether the case should be referred for a criminal investigation ( MCCSS 2016 d). They are expected to keep detailed records and notes, which would be required as evidence in a criminal investigation. If a recipient is found guilty of fraud, the ERO s must obtain a “certificate of conviction” from the court and upload it to the recipient’ s electronic file. If the case is unfounded, the fraud allegation and report are kept on file for up to a year before being deleted from the case file. ERO s have conside rable investiga tive powers, which are subject to change as policy evolves. They can review the recipient’ s case file, search homes, interview neighbours and family, and seize documents. At the time of the study , I was told by caseworkers that ERO s did not need consent to enter a recipient’ s home. However , under current legislation, they must request consent of the recipient to enter their home unless they have a formal search warrant. Under threat of penalties as severe as prison sentences, family and friends of recipients are expected to comp ly fully with a review officer ’s requests ( Community Development Halton 1998). ERO s are deployed on the grounds of suspicion alone, whether from caseworkers or the fraud hotlines. In some cases, ERO s will work with other investigative bodies. For instance, in the Toronto district, they have privileged access to the Special Review Committee, comprised of representatives from the Toronto Police Service (particul arly the former “fraud squad”) , the Crown Attorneys’ offices, the City of Toronto’ s Legal Services, and the Toronto Social Service’ s Fraud Review Unit (MacVicar 2006). These units are equipped with an integrated tracking system and have access to the entire welfare surveillance apparatus. The eligibility review unit has become larger over the years with the proliferation of “risk flags” generated by electronic surveillance via SAMS , the EVP , and the welfare fraud hotlines. Fraud units harness human, file-based, and electronic surveillance to conduct their investigations. Like other departments in OW , the fraud unit has been subject to cost- cutting measures from manage ment to reduce caseloads and save money . ERO s m ust meet quotas in order for municipalities and subsequent OW offices to receive funding — that is, disallow a certain percentage of recipients. As Toronto Social Services representatives explained, OW financially “benefits [from the] termination of some recipients as they are no longer deemed to be eligible” (Priel 2006: 1). Even if fraud is not discovered, there is a financial incentive to disallow recipients whether for non-compliance with policy, fraud, or other reasons. Under a humane welfare system, the high cost of such units would be redistributed to provide better programs, higher welfare rates, and more discretionary benefits. Addiction Services Initiative and Drug T esting Drug testing of social assistance recipients has been a controversial issue that re-emer ges in the media and political discourse from time to time. In Ontario, the debate about whether welfare recipients should be drug tested came to a boiling point during the Harris welfare reforms. Anti-poverty activists, medical professionals, and the parliamentary opposition protested this policy; the Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the government in 1999 stated that “denying welfare benefits to drug addicts is illegal” ( CBC News 2000). Liberal critic Michelle Gravelle responded to Harris’ s plan to drug test recipients of welfare as “a grotesque abuse of power and force” ( CBC News 2000). Historically , Ontario and Canada more broadly have not drug tested welfare recipients. Eventually , the human rights commissioner , Keith Norton, declared that drug testing of welfare recipients was a “violation of human rights”; paradoxically , in the same breath, he stated that it “might be justified” for those “unable to complete a training course or a job placement because of their habit” ( CBC News 2001). Among the public outcry, several medical experts and groups challenged drug testing of welfare recipients. Dr. Ber ger, medical director for inner -city health programs in Toronto at the time, said that drug testing stereotyped welfare recipients as “dev iant” and that focusing on addictions ignores other “legitimate barriers to employment” and, furthermore, “is an example of the state’ s misapplication of science for the purpose of achieving ideologically motivated social change” (Berger 2001). The Medical Reform Group released a brief in 2001 that drug testing is not cost-ef fective and may actually be harmful to those with substance use concerns. They contended that mandatory drug testing “violates their constitutional rights, encourages stereotypes, is of unproven efficacy … and will likely be a wasteful expenditure of public moneys” (Medical Reform Group 2001: 5). Despite the criticisms and statement from the human rights commissioner , in 2001, OW created the Addiction Services Initiative ( ASI ) to address recipients’ substance use barriers to employment ( MCCSS n.d.b.). The program focused on addressing substance use in order to move recipients off OW and into employment, and while the program was not centred on drug testing, in certain circumstances it could be enforced. At its core, the ASI assumes the individual’ s substance use issues are the reason they are unemployed — not a lack of good jobs and living wages, affordable childcare or housing, or other inequalities perpetuated by the capitalist labour market. Caseworkers can refer OW recipients who voluntarily disclose their substance abuse concerns to the ASI program to receive counselling, treatment, and support. For recipients who do not disclose and there is sus picion of substance use, drug testing can be required if it is perceived as a “barrier to participation in Ontario Works and employment” ( MCCSS n.d.b). Arguably , it is extremely difficult for recipients to disclose their substance use issues to caseworkers because of the power imbalance inherent in their relationship and the general lack of trust on both sides. This imbalance makes it difficult to decipher how willin gly recipients “volunteer” for the prog ram since their benefits, on which they rely to pay their rent and groceries, can be suspended if they refuse. The ASI program involves monitoring and surveillance through chemical testing and evaluative measures as well as counselling, peer support, relapse prevention, and other therapeutic measures ( MCCSS n .d.b.). The ASI c ase manager is granted extensive access to their client’ s progress in the addictions treatment program and to personal information deemed relevant to employability . This information can include the “name of treatment agency and all other agencies involved (e.g., CAS , Probation and Parole, AA, NA, etc.), length of treatment, whether participant is attending appointments, what supports the participant has accessed, and any other relevant information” ( MCCSS n .d.b.: 4). Interviews with caseworkers revealed that information sharing between OW, the ASI program, and these other governing bodies is not always done with the recipient’ s informed consent and the full scope of the information collected is not always revealed. There is also a gendered component to the ASI program since single parents (a majority of whom are mothers) receiving OW may fear that disclosing personal addictions information may result in losing custody of their children by triggering a child welfare investigation. 3 Under the duty to report, Section 125 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, caseworkers are required to inform various authorities (police and CAS ) if they suspect neglect or abuse or if children are in an unsafe home (Government of Ontario 2021). At the time of the interviews (2011–12), caseworkers exp lained to me the complexities surrounding drug testing. If child welfare was involved, the ASI program could refer the recipient, allowing the CAS to intervene and perform a hair test on pregnant women, particularly in cases where children have previously been removed from the mother ’s custody . This practice was phased out in 2015, and instead lengthy home visits by child protection workers involving various tools, risk assessments, and indicators, alongside clinical judgment (and surveillance), are used to assess the impacts of substance use on the family . As indicated previously, neoliberal financial incentives to reduce public expenditures on welfare caseloads were a motivating factor for the ASI p rogram — moving people as quickly as possible off of social assistance and into work. Evidently the program did not deliver the cost savings, though, and the current Conservative Ford government plans to scrap the ASI because it “was not demonstrating the enhanced individual and employment outcomes to justify the continuation of funding at $9.4 M a year” ( CBC News 2019). None of the participants in my study had under gone ASI treatment, and to my knowled ge there have not been any studies conducted (aside from uncritical and biased government consultations with service users) about its benefits or drawbacks. However , it is clear that the ASI program collects and shares personal information about recipients, uses electronic and human surveillance tools to monitor their behaviours and progress, and has further limited the rights to privacy and dignity for the poor . Transforming the recipient into a “good worker” and removing the burden on the state is a key justification for virtually all the aforementioned welfare surveillance practices, which together constitute a disciplinary form of social control (Foucault 1979). Gilliom (1996: 3) examined emerging drug- testing policies in the United States that were quickly taken up by a variety of workplaces. He claims that using the workplace as a site of surveillance is a modern form of governance that greatly expands the capacity for social control as workers spend a lar ge part of their days at work and, “[i]n doing so, it fundamentally challenges our conceptions of privacy , dignity , and due process of the law.” While drug testing was disallowed in Ontario, the lives of low-income people are continuously under surveillanc e by employers and welfare authorities, who can request and administer an ongoing — and steadily increasing — variety of electronic and human surveillance techniques to keep recipients “on track” to leave social assistance and become “self-suf ficient.” New Developments: Smart Cards and MyBenefits Online Portal Smart cards are government identity cards that store the holder ’s personal information; they authenticate individuals’ identity and store their personal data (Cavoukian 2001). Smart cards have existed in welfare legislation since the passing of the Ontario Works Act, 1997 a nd early on received criticism for their potential to track recipi ents. In an open letter in 2001, Ontario’ s privacy commissioner , Ann Cavoukian, cautioned against issuing smart cards for welfare recipients: “The location and time stamp information of each smart card transaction, coupled with the cardholder ’s personal information, creates the potential for a powerful surveillance tool” (2001: 1). Again in 2003, Cavoukian (2003: 2) advised against the smart cards because “the huge databases and inevitable demand for access by various departments creates significant privacy and security vulnerabilities.” True to form, the MCCSS ignored the privacy commiss ioner and almost a decade later, in 2012, the government introduced a benefit card with the intent to phase out paper cheques. Officials claimed that it would also save administration fees as producing cheques is expensive and that replacing a lost card is less administratively burdensome than a lost or stolen cheque. The cards were said to solve the issue of “stolen cheques,” “reduce stigma” of cashing cheques at financial institutions, and save recipients who do not have a personal bank account or direct deposit from the high fees associated with MoneyMarts and other short-term loan services (Brennan 2015). Partnering with the Royal Bank of Canada ( RBC ), Toronto of fices introduced the RBC R ight Pay card for OW recipi ents that would allow for benefits to be deposited onto a reusable card. There is no user fee unless cardholders withdraw from a non- RBC ATM . Th e cards were not in use during my interviews for this study , bu t we knew they were being rolled out. Among the caseworkers and advocates I interviewed, they did not see a problem with the cards and shared the same rhetoric as the MCCSS press release, that it was essentially positive for recipients. However, the single mothers I spoke to were alarmed and one even said she would “fight tooth and nail” to manage her finances on her own terms. I asked her why she didn’t want a we lfare debit card, and she said because it would allow for more tracking of her spending. Many of the women I interviewed preferred to withdraw cash and not use their regular debit cards, as the bank statements could be reviewed by caseworkers upon request. These payment cards are not a neutral technology nor a solution to banking challenges for the poor — they have built- in tracking features that could potentially monitor and regulate the spending habits of cardholders. Smart cards powerfully combine electronic and moral surveillance. Caseworkers I interviewed said it would be “unlikely” that a worker would “spy” on recipie nts in this way. Y et we know that the cards are monitored, we don’ t actually know how, and OW mangers were unwilling to tell me. Poor -bashing sentiments continued to fuel political debates. The PC party , in opposition in 2013, suggested the debit cards should be limited to specific purchases and not be used to pay for alcohol or gambling (Artuso and Jenkins 2013; Hudak 2013). The PC white paper “Paths to Prosperity: Welfare to Work” recommended that the welfare debit card “only works at food vendors” to ensure “that the portion of monthly benefits intended for food is set aside and canno t be used on other expenses” (Hudak 2013: 18). This intention to regulate the poor in this way has also been seen in soc ial service agencies in the United States that are using smart cards to permit “more precise tracking and monitoring of client behaviour” and are a clear expression of power and oppression (Eubanks 2006: 6). In 2019, a pilot study for MyBenefits was testing a new real- time online portal for social assistance recipients. The website is interactive, allowing recipients to add in new information or upload relevant documents as well as check their status. This software was co-designed with frontline workers and recipients for accessibility and is said to give recipients “more choice and flexibility in how they get, manage, and report information … it is expected to significantly improve the user experience” (Middlesex County 2019: 2). However , this “flexibility” has enhanced the electronic surveillance capabilities of OW as a new form of data collection and algorithmic surveillance that automatically weeds out the ineligible. It also brings up a host of ethical concerns, including the following questions: What is happening with the data collected? What additional information is being recorded (IP addresses), and will there be automated features that request information normally only obtained in in-person meetings? Who is monitoring the online activity? How secure is it? Will it replace in person meetings? How will OW address the calls for people who are locked out of their accounts? Considering the digital divide that lower-income communities face (lack of access to computers or to high speed or reliable internet, reliance on public computers), how accessible would this platform be to recipients? Like the benefit card, will it become the new norm, thereby discriminating against recipients who do not own computers or have access to the internet, a luxury that many low-income people cannot afford. During the COVID -19 pandemic, waves of lockdowns created additional barriers for those forced to rely on computer access at libraries or employment service offices. It is also unclear how much support recipients would be provided to learn this new system, to understand what is being asked of them, and to figur e out how to protect their information online. It is unclear at the time of writing whether or how this technology will be used or how recipients feel about it. CONCLUSION Many surveillance scholars have cautioned against the negative and dystopic assumption that all surveillance will have negative outcomes for those subject to such monitoring (Pleace 2007; Lyon 2001). However in the case of welfare, with its history of poor -bashing, sexism, and racism, there is good reason to be cautious. Surveillance systems used with this population are designed to discipline and regulate the poor and to cut welf are costs. They are not designed to take into consideration the everyday experience of surveillance from the perspectives of those enduring it. I disagree with Nicolas Pleace, who, speaking to welfare surveillance mashups in a paper commissioned by the UK Department for Work and Pensions, states that “computer code is neutra l and surveillance systems can be used in many ways within welfare policies. Surveillance systems can be directed to redistribute income ensure access to benefits, or to help people find reasonably paid jobs rather than to further mar ginalize or punish the poor for their own situation” (2007 : 6). While surveillance “could” technically be designed to help, considering the history and treatment of the poor , surveillance in the welfare system is highl y unlikely to actually benefit them. Furthermore, his argument too closely resembles the neoliberal and moral discourses perpetuated by the state to justify these systems of social control. The government of Ontario, and many caseworkers (but not all), would of course argue that there are many “benefits” of the current system. Yet any claims of positive outcomes of the current system are steeped in neoliberal individual consumer choice whereby smart cards and online portals give “clients” “good customer service” and “flexibility .” There is something incredibly problematic with the framing of recipients as clients. Social assistance recipients are not clients — they are not consuming a service but are human beings in crisis. As Torin Monahan (2009: 291) critically points out, when “social control through surveillance happens at a distance, or as an automated part of a system, these inequalities are more likely to be perceived as individual rather than collective problems.” I ha ve been studying welfare surveillance for more than a decade and am at a loss to find any positive outcomes for recipients — even the technological problems and errors that are a result of the surveillanc e and software systems are designed in ways that punish recipients, as in the case with “overpayments.” Right-wing ideology that was bent on criminalizing and disciplining the poor shaped the policies that then shaped the types of surveillance technologies that were developed. As I have argued elsewhere (2009; 2011; 2015; 2020), the encroachin g automation of social assistance and algorithmic surveillance in Ontario has not been a neutral, apolitical, or benign process but rather was (and is) explicitly designed to deter and keep caseloads as low as possible by seeking out fraud and non-compliance and using workfare to move people quickly into employment — any employment, no matter how exploitative, temporary , or precarious. Indeed, the Ontario government, regardless of political stripe, has perpetuated the ideology that poverty is an “individual failing” whereby recipients are incapable of “regulating themselves” and therefore require constant monitoring and regulation. T he welfare surveillance apparatus permeates every corner of recipients’ lives. From community surveillance in their neighbourhoods and homes to workplace surveillance where they complete their placements, to the online dataveillance and algorithmic surveillance through the SAMS interface — there is little escape for the poor from scrutiny , judgment, and a surveilling gaze from the state, employers, and neighbours. Notes 1. See Cavoukian’ s 2007 report, “Biometric Encryption: The Privacy-Enhancing Biometric of Choice.” 2. For a complete list, see MCCSS 2016e. 3. See W itelson and Jain 2013. 3: C au gh t i n a W eb o f S urv eilla n ce L IFE UNDER THE W ATCH FUL E YE OF ONT ARIO W ORKS INTER VIEWS WITH S INGLE M OTHERS ON S OCIAL ASSIST ANCE “I ’m completely opposed…. Instead of the whole belief that you’re innocent until proven guilty … it’s a system where they’re out to prove you guilty,” says Marie about welfare surveillance. Marie’s personal experiences, as a single mother receiving welfare, as well as her advocacy work with other low-income people, made her believe that if someone was in “trouble once … they’re gonna watch you for a heck of a long time.” Marie struggled during the Harris welfare reforms as rates were drastically cut and fraud policies that disallowed additional income to top up one’ s benefits came into effect. As she endured the brunt of the cuts and new restrictions on income, she resorted to doing whatever she could to support her child: working under the table bartending and taking vegetables from neighbourhood gardens to ensure her daughter had enough nutritious food to eat. Her resilience and critique of both the welfare state and surveillance powerfully encapsulate the feelings of many mothers who have encountered the callous and accusatory nature of Ontario’ s social assistance programs. To truly appreciate the effects of neoliberal surveillance measures, it is essential to centre the voices of welfare recipients. Their narratives emphasize the dehumanizing experiences of OW’ s constant surveillance, inadequate benefits, and workfare demands as well as the negative impacts these pressures have on their ability to mother their children. Their stories also reveal how supposedly race- and gender -neutral neoliberal policies do not bring about greater equality but instead exacerbate the oppression of those on the economic margins of society . To understand recipients’ encounters with welfare, I use intersectional analysis to expose the false universalism and reductionist nature of neoliberal thought and to show how overlapping social locations and identities such as race, class, ethnicity , ability, age, relationship status, and gender configure the ways in which single mothers are treated by and respond to Ontario’ s welfare system (Dua 1999; Collins 1990; Windsong 2018). Indeed, as the interviews revealed, the sexism inherent to the welfare surveillance apparatus is experienced differently by Black and Indigenous women because it is racialized and fuelled by anti- Black and anti-Indigenous stereotypes in which Black women are seen as deviant, sexually promiscuous, and criminal, and Indigenous women are seen as bad and unfit mothers who are undeserving (and incapable) of mothering their own children. These othering discourses are part of a long-standing thread in the welfare surveillance web of moral regulation that seeks to reproduce the “ideal mother” — one that is white, obedient, and adheres to middle-class notions of the heteronormative nuclear family . This chapter ’s insights are drawn from eighteen in-depth, open-ended interviews with single mothers in Kingston (n=7), Peterborough (n=5), and Toronto (n=6) in 201 1–12. Ten of the single mothers were white, five were Black, and two were Indigenous. The majority of interviewees (thirteen of eighteen) were currently receiving OW and five were collecting ODSP payments at the time of the interview , although they had at some point recei ved welfare benefits. Almost half ( eight, or 44 percent) of the interviewees had left abusive partners. This chapter, which describes the single mothers’ lived experiences on welfa re, reveals that surveillance was a major part of that and contributed to the demeaning aspects of the system. Yet women also said that surveillance, while intrusive, was only one part of the challenges of living on social assistance; their unequal relationships with caseworkers, their only point of contact in the system, were equally if not more upsetting. The combination of invisible, computer-based surveillance that they were largely unaware of (databases and algorithmic surveillance) and human-based surveillance via their caseworkers created a powerful system of regulation and discipline, far removed from the support one would expect from a social service ostensibly intended to socially and materially help recipients. Moral regulation helps to frame the interplay between recipients and caseworkers to understand the role of surve illance and power dynamics and how this was also internalized as a form of self-surveillance and regulation. Many of the single mothers I interviewed had internalized social control, which showed up in a variety of ways: self- surveillance, regulating their own behaviour , feeling shame and guilt for their circumstances, identifying with caseworkers, and distancing themselves from other “bad mothers.” EXPERIENCING W ELFARE S URVEILLANCE Since so little is known about poor people’ s experiences of welfare surveillance, my study aspired to capture what it is like to live under the scrutiny of welfare authorities, how one might navigate and challenge various computer -, human-, and file-based surveillance mechanisms, and, finally , how these mechanisms related to disciplin e, moral regulation, and social control. Interestingly , even as the single mothers I interviewed related their experiences of being surveilled and regulated, they were unsure at first how to respond to questions regarding their feelings about being “surveilled” by Ontario W orks. Most women in the study did not respond to the term surveillance because it was unfamiliar to them. They used descriptors such as “judged,” “watched,” “red flagged,” and “keeping tabs.” Nevertheless, they were critical of the extensive requests for personal information and documentation, as well as the persistent accusations of welfare fraud and spouse-in-the- house violations. As the interviews progressed and the participants revealed the multiple ways that welfare authorities intrude into their personal lives, it became clear to me that surveillance processes were embedded in every part of the welfare experience: the application process, determining eligibility, ongoing moral surveillance, and community surveillance. But welfare has not fully normalized its deep incursions into the lives of low-income individuals — recipients continue to resis t, critique, and challenge surveillance and regulation in individual and collective ways, as explored in more detail in Chapter 6. The scrutiny and stigma that low-income mothers feel begins before they even step into the of fice to apply for welfare. Marie referred to her meetings with her caseworker as “inspections” and worried about “passing” her inspection to maintain her monthly benefits. Marie was not alone; other mothers described similar stress before attending meetings. This stress included fretting about what to wear , what their physical appearance revealed about them as mothers, and whether to bring along their children (that is, if they had the option of childc are). Lauren recalled an unsettling encounter with her caseworker: No, you can’t dress up nice because they will think that you have too much money .… They’re on you; they watch every little thing and look at everything that you got. If they think you have something that you shouldn’ t have because you’re on assistance, they’ll tell you to sell it. And that’ s unfair. These experiences show how defensive recipients are made to feel. Mothers felt compelled to disclose every detail about their lives for fear that they would trigger a child welfare or fraud investigation. In many ways, they felt they could never please their case workers or meet the demands of the system: “You can’ t win either way , you just cannot win” (Emma). The women I in terviewed described the OW intake rooms as “cubes,” “cells,” and “boxes” and the office as “institutional,” “cold,” and “unwelcoming.” At two of the locations I visited, there was hardly enough space in the rooms for two chairs sitting side-by-side facing the caseworker ’s desk. There were no decorations or pictures on the walls, no personal items on the desk except for a desktop computer for data input. The lack of physical space and cell-like rooms for meetings perpetuate the linkage between social assistance and criminality, making the welfare office appear and feel more like a prison. For instance, when I was given a tour of one OW office, the caseworker noted how institutional and dated the space was. But I was mostly taken aback by the cell-like rooms where meetings with clients took place. They were set up in a row with a front door for the client to enter and a back door for the caseworker to enter . The room was incredibly small, the size of a lar ge closet, with only a desk, computer , phone, and two chairs. The fact that the worker had a dif ferent entrance to the space alone is indicative of the purposeful separation of the worker and client as well as the very tangible power imbalance between them. In the spaces I visited, it was obvious that mothers were discouraged from bringing their children because there was neither room for a stroller nor a play area for their kids. Additionally , there was no childcare on site, an obvio us barrier for lone parents who cannot afford a babysitter or want to protect their children from witnessing the degrading meetings. Emma was fortunate that her mother was able to look after her son while she was at appointments to shield him from the negative experience and stigmatization of the welfare office. She said, “I hate going down there … my mom keeps my son for me … I just don’ t want my kids to see that … I don’ t want my three- year -old growing up knowing that’ s where mom had to go to get food … it’ s very hard.” Eligibility Surveillance The application process for social assistance is a primary example of the embeddedness of surveillance and how “rituals of degradation” function to disc ourage prospective applicants. Intake assessments require each applicant to provide a daunting number of documents and a labyrinth of paperwork. Verification of assets, relationship status, ongoing job searches, children’s school attendance records, bank records, letters from landlords, divorce papers, immigration documents, Native Status cards, child custody documents, paternity tests, death certificate s, mental health assessments, child welfare documents, and substance abuse treatment records — any and all of these documents may be demanded through SAMS . Failure to divulge any required information is treated as “non- compliance” and benefits can be denied on the spot. Lying and/or hiding information can result in a fraud investigation. Providing all of this mandatory documentation made recipients feel confused, fearful, dehumanized, guilty, and profoundly undeserving. Once seated before a caseworker , recipients face a barrage of questions as their personal data are fed into the SAMS database. An algorithm then assesses their (in)eligibility and simultaneously initiates third-party checks with, for example, Canada Revenue Agency ( CRA ), Eq uifax, Immigration Canada, and more. The checked electronic boxes reduce and decontextualize the women’ s co mplex life stories and translate their precarious situations into computer codes. Once uploaded into SAMS , it is eas ily searchable and can be accessed by other caseworkers and managers as well as other legally designated authorities outside of OW (e.g., in a criminal fraud investigation), exposing recipients to potential mishandling of their personal information and unwarranted intrusions into their privacy . The intake interview requires recipients to sign two documents, including a “con sent to disclose and verify information” form, which gives Ontario Works access to vast amounts of their personal information and permission to release it to third parties to verify identity , assets, debts, CRA records, and so on. Recipients are then asked to sign a “rights and responsibilities” contract, which includes far more responsibilities than individual rights; it is the legally binding contract that confirms that they will comply with the participation agreement (which agreement outlines workfare activities and other eligibility requirements) ( MCCSS 2018a). Mothers recognized the one-sided nature of this contract. As Barb exclaimed, “They give you this great big long form that you have to sign … they say it’s their rights and responsibilities too, but if you read that form, it’s all about the client !” Several recipients pointed out that these forms told them very little about any discretionary benefits they might be entitled to, including the special diet allowance and snowsuit funds for their children. Information about upgrading including tuition bursaries and education courses as well as on-site resources that were available to them (access to a computer lab, employment centre, online job boards, etc.) was often unclear or not conveyed. Information on support and resources for women leaving domestic violence was another issue women noted as absent. Together , the lack of transparency around what is available to them left many of the women I spoke with feeling uninformed and powerless (also see Gilliom 2001; Mosher et al. 2004; Power 2005). Welfare policies are constantly undergoing revision; this coupled with excessive file-based surveillance to create an environment whereby recipients felt overwhelmed and frustrated with a system that threatened ineligibility at every turn. Frequent policy changes are problematic for both recipients and caseworkers — with the latter , single mothers pointed out, often not knowing, or claiming not to know , the current status of what is availab le. To best advocate for their entitlements, recipients needed to remain constant ly vigilant — basically a full-time job in itself, and welfare mothers typically have neither the time nor the political, social, economic capital for such a str uggle. For this reason, direct action casework was such a critical aspect of resistance (see Chapter 6). The system, as well as the labyrinth of policies and regulations, kept recipients on high alert for infractions that could make them ineligible. Gilliom’s (2001) research also found this to be an issue, indicating that the real power imbalance of welfare surveillance is fuelled by recipients giving up their personal information while the system itself remains lar gely a mystery . This is obviously intentional. To make matters worse, most women were unaware of exactly how their personal information was (or might be) shared with other social services and government departments, which exacerbated the unequal power dynamics between them and their caseworkers and the welfare system. In addition, the exhaustive demands for documentation to “prove” their worthiness dehumanized many single mothers. “When you open that file, there’ s a history , it’ s not just a number … you treat us all the same … you know, we’re not paper !” exclaimed Chantal. Administrative eligibility demands are inflexible and take little accoun t of individual circumstances. Some interviewees said they were unable to submit paperwork on time because they had to request documentation from a third party . Fo r example, caseworkers frequently request letters: from landlords to prove that rent is paid and that recipients are not cohabiting, from ex-partners to prove that they have deserted their family , fro m parents to prove that youth were kicked out of their homes or fled violence, and from teachers and principals to document children’s behaviour and attendance as well as solicit ing judgments on the mother ’s parenting. Letters from third parties expand welfare surveillance and scrutiny into the lives of low-income single mothers and establish more opportunities for stigmatization and degradation from not only welfare authorities but also civil society . Fiona, who fled an abusive home at age twelve and applied for assistance at sixteen, remarked: “They wanted my mom to sign something stating I couldn’ t live with her anymore and she refused but I wasn’ t even in her custody … so they denied me Onta rio Works.” This gave her no choice but to return back to abusive parents or risk homelessness. The extended period she was forced to live with her parents compromised her mental health, which continued to negatively impact her. Parental contact is waived if there are signs of any form of child abuse ( MCCSS 2018e); however , this is a judgment call by the caseworker , who may not know the signs of abuse or appropriate questions to ask. Barb, a single mother of three, escaped an abusive partner and fled to a violence against women ( VA W ) shelter . She told her caseworker why she was temporarily staying there but was denied the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit ( CSUMB ), a discretionary benefit to help with costs for various household items and security deposits, until she provided a police report to “prove” that her ex-partner had indeed destroyed her possessions. At the time of the incident, Barb was in full crisis, had difficulties coping with communal living at the shelter , and wondered why her caseworker could not obtain the police report herself: “[The caseworker] knew I was in the shelter … and she’s like ‘sorry I need a police report in order to get money .’” Barb felt, as so many survivors of gender -based violence unfortunately experience, that she was being accused of falsifying the extent of the damage and was not believed. It should be obvious that these third-party letters are often difficult to obtain (and that such requirements may expose recipients to further abuse), yet the burden is placed on the women to provide them. Recipients face significant consequences if they refuse to comply with such demands and intrusions, suspended benefits being the most severe. According to the “rights and responsibilities” document, recipients are to meet with caseworkers frequently , which, with the current risk-based algorithms, is set at a minimum of every two months, even more if a change in their circumstances triggers the system. An automatic suspension of benefits is issued by SAMS if attendance is not recorded. But since life happens and deadlines are missed, “if your income statement is not in right on the sixteent h or if I happen to miss an employment counsellor meeting, boom I’m cut off, like every month!” Diane exclaimed. Women felt that this was a personal attack on them , as the punishment had such severe consequences for women living on the economic margins. Emma, an Indigenous single mother , shared her stress over her suspended benefits: If you don’ t have paperwork in on time, they suspend you.… You don’ t get your health benefits, you don’t get your rent, hydro, nothing paid. Not even the smell of a dime until you have the prop er documents in. And if there’ s documents missing, they still make you wait. They don’t giv e a crap if you’ve got kids or not, they make you wait … if you don’t have that piece of paper … I don’ t know how many times I’ve been suspended. Emma’ s description powerfully reveals the stress of trying to meet the eligibility demands and the daunting lack of choice that she experiences in the process. Furthermore, Emma pointed out the additional difficulties that low-income people who lack access to phones, computers, and transportation frequently face. “It’s the same garbage every time: shoving papers, sign the papers … you have to phone your worker … and explain to her what happened … I was suspended every month…. My caseworker said, ‘oh this paper ’s not right, or that paper ’s not right.’” Moral Surveillance T echnological advances in computer software and risk management have been at the forefront of the “modernization” of social assistance. Rather than replacing human-based surveillance, these advances complemented and enhanced investigative work and the never -ending demands for documentation and file-based surveillance. Today , face-to-face investigative surveillance methods such as tracking recipients, home visits, questioning neighbours, and following up with employers continue to be used in certain circumstances. This largely falls under what some have referred to as “moral surveillance” (Caragata 2008: 66; Maki 2015). Such surveillance can involve technological and non-technological methods of scrutiny and often works in conjunction with human and computer surveillance. Moral surveillance is highly subjective and illustrates the complex interplay of moral regulation between caseworkers and recipients. Caseworkers make their own judgments and “red flags” and can run their suspicions through the databases and algorithms to further assess whether a recipient is “risky” or not. As discussed in Chapter 2, these codes are not neutral and target specific recipients. For example, if a caseworker suspects a spouse-in-the-house violation, they can access Equifax information to verify previous shared addresses and find out if there are joint bank accounts. Single-parent status by definition is deemed riskier and subject to more automatic and random file reviews. Since women make up the bulk of lone parents, these algorithm s are inherently sexist and discriminatory . The moral surveillance experienced, specifically from caseworkers, was perceived as more intrusive and reached further into mothers’ personal lives as their spending habits, relationships, and personal choices were routinely questioned. Moral surveillance helps us understand that both technological and non-technological surveillance mechanisms are not benign; they are infused with moralistic regulatory techniques designed to regulate, monitor, and transform the poor into good worker citizens. It also points to how the human-technology interplay of surveillance systems work in conjunction to weed out the ineligible. Financial Surveillance The financial surveillance deemed necessary for ongoing eligibility was another major issue for the single mothers I interviewed. Their personal spending habits were so closely monitored that bank records were routinely requested and scrutinized, and recipients were so fearful that they disclosed all aspects of their finances, even small gifts received from family to pay for basic necessities such as groceries. “And if you accept a gift or any money from someone then you better report it, and if you don’t you’re in deep trouble,” said Kate. Janice, a young mother, survived on a tight budget while she finished high school and acted as a primary caregiver for her siblings and her mother , who suffered from multiple health complications. She noted occasions when her caseworker not only requested her bank statements, they even questioned the $5 a day she spent on her lunch at school: My worker one time asked me to bring in my bank statements and I did and she really grilled me about where I was spending my money .… She was literally going through everything and she would ask me why I was eating out every day and I said it was because I’m at school … five to six dollars a day , I kinda put that in my budget for my lunch. Yet Janice’ s caseworker insisted that she learn how to “budget better ,” insinuating that she was doing something wrong and mismanaging her finances. This is indicative of stereotypes that the poor , especially young racialized single mothers, are incapable of managing budgets and organizing their lives, rather than the systemic factors that keep them poor. Diane encountered a similar situation. Her caseworker questioned how she could afford to live on such a small budget, implying that she must be getting help from somewhere else or defrauding the government. “I told you before, most days I go without. I starve, okay? I exhaus t food banks,” Diane defiantly said to her caseworker . Diane’ s file was “red flagged” because her rent was considered higher than the welfare shelter allowance. The caseworker insisted that she find a cheaper place to live, inferring that Diane might face investigation because her living expenses exceeded what OW covered. In addition to monitoring personal spending habits, recipients are required to report all earn ings of their part-time work (often a workfar e placement). The surveillance and monitoring built into the workfare program is there to make sure no one is getting a penny more than the maximum top-up allowed. If they are and it is not immediately reported to OW , recipients may be deemed ineligible and cut off from benefits or, even worse, they could be criminally investigated for welfare fraud (MCCSS 2016d). The mothers who worked were highly aware of how scrutinized their earnings were and diligently reported their income monthly. They were frustrated that the system prevented them from taking on extra hours and earning a bit more money to top up their benefits (this was prior to the 2018 change that allows recipients to keep up to $300 in earnings). As Marie said: “I think it really sucks … why not allow the people to make a few extra dollars? They [government] don’t want to give it to us, but yet we shouldn’ t go and try to make it , either .” She did not really have a choice but to commit “fraud” to survive and worked under the table waitressing and bartending but did not report these earnings to OW . Once again, women’ s choice and autonomy were curtailed by a system that regulates when, how, and where they could work while surveillance and threats of financial penalty or investigation are wielded as mechanisms of social control. As noted, recipients were largely kept in the dark about the computer databases and algorithmic surveillance that constantly monitored them behind the scenes. Even the introduction of new welfare debit cards (the RBC Rig ht to Pay Card) to replace paper cheques, which came into effect while I was conducting interviews, was unknown to the participants. As of the time of writing, the transition to welfare debit cards is still not complete. Recalling the privacy commissioners’ position against their use and OW’s track record with surveillance, these cards are almost certainly being used to track recipients’ personal spending habits. 1 Th e women I spoke to were largely opposed to the cards — Jane was shocked and “horrified” that the cards would soon be used in her community: It’s sick … I wo uld fight it tooth and nail if I had to deal with one of tho se cards.… When I was on OW , I would use cash instead of a debit card when I realized they’re gonna look at my bank statem ents.… To go one step further and then actually give me a debit card … no way . It just gives them more options for judgment calls … you didn’ t buy milk, but you bough t beer , well, guess what? No discretionary funds for you. Jane’s comment cogently reinforces the moral regulation that is tied to technologies, which seem benign and, some officials have argued, even helpful. Caseworkers can already request bank statements and receipts; however, the welfare debit card gives authorities easy and permanent access to every monetary transaction and adds yet another layer of electronic surveillance to the welfare surveillance apparatus. 2 Another unsettling example of financial surveillance was Danielle’s expe rience of a cas eworker watching her home. Danielle lived with her ex-partner ; he was workin g under the table because they were struggling to pay their bills and had already exhausted local food banks. Danielle found out that they were being monitored: “The caseworker said that ‘we have knowledge that you’re working under the table’ … meanwhile, how would they know that he’s getting cash? He’s not claiming it, he’s not filing it anywhere?” Danielle’s caseworker threatened that welfare authorities would wait outside of her home and follow her ex-husband as part of the fraud investigation: They actually told him they were going to have someone watch him to see if he leaves in the morning to go to work. So for a whole week straight he didn’ t go to work … he just had to stop complet ely.… They actually told him, “We’re going to have people out driving around your units wherever you live to see if we see you leaving with your family or by yourself with work clothes on”.… They kept bugging him, calling him in for interviews to see if he would come in that day and if he had work clothes on or a dirty face. Danielle’ s example shows the real costs of a system based on suspicion and surveillance — for an entire week, her family was unable to work and therefore meet basic needs, such as having enough food to eat, in order to avoid criminalization and punishment for simply trying to survive on welfare rates that everyone knows are not enough. Personal finances and eligibility criteria are not the only areas heavily scrutinized by caseworkers, though. Living arrangements, sexuality, intimate relationships, child support, and family dynamics are all subject to suspicion, review, and surveillance by welfare authorities, and it is to these areas I now turn. “Spouse in the House” Typically , women are judged more harshly on their sexual choices than men due to long-sta nding heteronormative gender scripts and beliefs about masculinity and femininity . There are countless examples of how this plays out in society , from sexual double standards and the objectification of women and girls in the med ia and popular culture to legal responses to gender-based violence. When it comes to single mothers on welfare, the questioning, scrutiny, and surveillance of “single” status and subsequent sexual activities has been a concern of the state since the early poor laws and the Ontario Mothers’ Allowance (Little 1998). Little has argued that this form of moral regulation is focused on sexuality , as welfare’ s historical preoccupation with “man in the house” questions the “sexual factors” in the categorization of “spouse” (Little 1998; Little and Morrison 1999). Even when moral eligibility was removed from the policy under the Family Benefits Act , moral undertones persisted and then became heightened once again in the 1990s during welfare reforms (Little and Morrison 1999). This moral regulation thread is so strong and prevalent that, as in Little’ s interviews in the 1980s and 1990s, the single mothers I interviewed twenty years later were still hyper aware of this scrutiny and went to great lengths to avoid judgment or detection from caseworkers and neighbours, which, for some, included avoiding men altogether . Even under gender -neutral policy changes, “spouse” and “cohabitation” carry heteronormative assumptions regarding a man and a woman, even with the inclusion of same-sex couples in the policy (Little and Morrison 1999). While men are also questioned under spouse-i n-the-house rules, women face harsher judgment from caseworkers based on these long-standing beliefs around women’ s sexuality . Not one caseworker or anti- poverty advocate I interviewed brought up men complaining about the spouse -in-the-house questionnaire or surveillance of their sexual lives. This is not to say that it does not happen, but that it is a common experience among low-income single mothers. The spouse-in-the-house policy stipulates that two people living together as a couple cannot collect separate welfare cheques and therefore must claim “spousal” status within three months of cohabitation as a result of Falkiner v. Ontario (2002), which challenged the Harris government’ s redefinition of spouse. However , just because the courts recognized how the polic y harme d poor women, it did not mean that much was changed to fix its sexist implications or moral regulation. Of course, anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, who lives with a recipient is asked to take the spouse-in-the- house question naire to determine if the relationship is “marriage-like.” Recalling welfare’s long-standing tradition of regulating single mothers’ relationships, morality, and sexuality , it is no surprise that the mothers I interviewed felt that they were closely monitored and always under suspicion. This plays out in a variety of ways, including the questionnaire, intrusive probes from caseworkers, and automated risk flags in the EVP and SAMS . If caseworkers suspect something, they could run analyses in the EVP to determine if an investigation is warranted. They can also search previous case file notes in the SAMS to cross-reference evidence they gather . Whether surveillance was human or computer -based, it was a source of deep anxiety among the women who spoke with me. Marie recalled her caseworker asking her “really stupid questions” about her roommate, including, “if we order pizza, who pays for the pizza … no kidding. Do we go to each other’s family functions … and if we grocery shop together?” Even though Marie could later laugh about this, she also vividly recalled how fearful and worried she felt about it: “I had to say yes to these things. If I answered the wrong way, I was really afraid that I was going to be in trouble. And because I thought I’d be in trouble, it made me nervous and I was really uncomfortable.” Julia was investigated after a car insurance claim listed her as “in a relationship,” which was somehow flagged in the OW system. Even though she was not in a re lationship with her ex-partner , they co-parented their four children and she happened to be driving with him during the time of the accident. Julia later found out from her caseworker that the insurance claim “red flagged” her file even though there was no evidence to prove that they actually lived togethe r or were in any violation of spouse-in-the-house rules. Women were careful about disclosing to their caseworkers if they were seeing anyone because of scrutiny to their romantic and sexu al relationships and fear that their benefits would be taken away. The majority of interviewees did not divulge to their caseworke rs that they were in a relationship to avoid questioning and to maintain their independence and some measure of privacy . Lauren thought that it was none of her caseworker’s business that she had a boyfriend because they did not share finances, nor did they live together or have sleepovers. She stated, “You can’ t have a boyfriend when you’re on OW because if you have a boyfriend and he comes to see you, he should be supporting you. Why should he be supporting me?” Lauren feared that her caseworker would find this out and force him to support her. Claire questioned the policing of single mothers’ romantic relationships, even casual ones: “Surveilla nce is, well, if you’re gonna get involved in a relationship with somebody , then they are just supposed to support you and your kid?” Lauren and Clair point out how this practice, whether formal or informal (and ironically in contrast to workfare policies that promote self-sufficiency), actually hindered their independence — rather than having financial autonomy through their own social assistance benefits, they were instead encouraged to rely on a partner for support. The few women who had disclosed to their caseworkers that they had boyfriends described how they carefully monitored the amount of time they spent with the ir partner and avoided sleepovers and other activities that might be considered “cohabitation.” Single mothers on assistance felt this was an extreme infringement on their personal lives: Being on Ontario Works, you can’t have a boyfriend. If you have a boyfriend, you have to tell them, even if he’ s not living at your house. Why do I have to tell caseworkers that I have a boyfriend if he’ s not living with me?… He’s not paying rent, so it’s none of their darn business. I can date or be with whoever I wanna be with. I don’t have to tell my caseworker everything … it’s irritating. (Fiona) While the legislation stipulates that three months of cohabitation warrants a new application as a couple, I heard dif fering accounts of how caseworkers framed this policy , which indicates the complexity and inconsistency of how this plays out between caseworkers and recipients. For instance, according to Diane, one casewo rker said that if a man sleeps over more than three nights a week, “it’s considered common law.” I asked her what she thought of this rule and she responded, “It feels like you’re under surveillance, like they’ve got eyeballs on you at all times … they control your sex life.” For Diane, surveillance felt like control and an exercise of power over every aspect of her life, down to the most intimate. Others who disclosed faced financial penalties and were deemed ineligible as single applicants. Julia shared that she felt “violated” by a caseworker who threatened to investigate her relationship status, includin g interviewing neighbours to find out if she was living with her boyfriend. At the time, Julia was living with her boyfriend as a survival strategy and confessed to her worker , hopin g that telling the truth would lessen the punishment. However, it did not: “She promised that she wouldn’ t cut us off till the following month and she cut him off righ t away , which basically left us unable to pay our rent and eventually we faced eviction.” This example demonstrates the power of hum an-based surveillance — even the threat of an investigation forced Julia to disclose her living situation, resulting in an eviction and potential homelessness. Fiona shared an unnerving story of a fraud investigation she experienced. Generally, the in-person surveillance is more likely to occur in smaller communities and towns, where recipients and caseworkers are more likely to run into each other . Sh e was called in for a m eeting because her caseworker saw her with her ex-partner at a community fair, which was later used as “evidence” in a fraud investigation. Fiona was very emotional when she spoke about this injustice: “Basically they’re stating, ‘oh you can’t be in public with him, you know , or we’re gonna suspect you’re frauding.’” Fiona was insistent that her relation ship with her ex-partner was platonic and that they were trying to do family activities together for the benefit of their children. “I didn’ t know I wasn’ t allowed to do that. Of cours e we’re gonna have some sort of relationship for the kids’ sake, you know , friendship,” she said. She told her worker , “I’m not in a relationship with him; he is not living in my home; we strictly do this for the kids. Yes, we have a friendship … wouldn’ t they rather we get along?” To further intimidate Fiona, the caseworkers questioning her would not specify why she was being investigated. “They were investigating me for fraud, which was ridiculous … I knew what the appointment was for. I wasn’ t stupid and she said to me … ‘Is he living at your house?’ And I said, ‘no, of course not.’ … It was when she left the room I actually read the paper on her desk … she was all red flagged about it.” OW’ s obsession with the relationship status of single parents may also conflict with parenting plan agreements legally imposed by family courts. This impacts their ability to mother their children and maintain relationships with the fathers. According to the women I spoke with, caseworkers often questioned their platonic relationships with their ex-partners, even though co-parenting may be instructed by the courts in the parenting plan. In joint and shared custody cases, the parties agree by signing the parenting plan that they will cooperate and make all major parenting decisions together. The agreement includes an understanding that both parents will participate in family activities with the children to maintain some stability for the children and encourage reconciliation. However , welfar e’s suspicion of single parents may interfere with parenting plans and create unnecessary stresses for single mothers as they attempt to balance the demands from different governing bodies. Thus, family court and social assistance can, on the one hand, encourage patriarchal family ideals while, on the other , penalize single mothers who pursue relationships with new or former partners. Megan, a former recipient who works at a women’ s shelter , far too often sees the consequences of these contradictory expectations as a “no win situation”: If the court system and the judges are saying, ‘you guys need to work things out,’ then you need to be able to communicate with your ex for the children’ s sake because it’s all about the benefit of the children and the healthy lifestyle of the children. So if the women are communicating with their ex it’ s because it’s court ordered that they be congenial.… They’re doing it because the court ordered them to, but then they get caught in the community and they’re being penalized by OW. So , really , it’ s a no-win situation for these women that are coming in and out of the system. Facing spouse-in-the-house rules and incessant questioning of relationship status (romantic or otherwise) were sadly common experiences among the mothers interviewed for this study . The moral regulation they endured and prying into the most intimate aspects of their lives was one of the most degrading and invasive experiences they shared with me. Community Surveillance While single mothers on socia l assistance experience multi- layered levels of surveillance within Ontario Works and other governing bodies, they also experienced community surveillance. This type of surveillance, often informal but just as serious, widens the reach of the welfare surveillance apparatus and calls on civil society to keep tabs on low- income people. The public is encouraged to report suspected fraud or suspicious behaviour to welfare fraud hotlines, by-law enforcement, and child welfare agencies. As Kohler – Hausmann (2007), Gilliom (2001), and Little (1998) have demonstrated, these reports to a host of policing bodies bring tensions often fuelled by racism and misogyny to a boiling point and perpetuate lateral violence in low-income communities. Community surveillance, while experienced by all single mothers interviewed, was most pronounced among the those who lived in social housing, which was the majority (eleven of eighteen, 61 percent) of interviewees. Subsidized housing is essential for low-income individuals and families as private market rent is often unobtainable and much higher than the shelter allowance provided by social assistance. The lack of affordable housing is a crisis facing communities across Canada, resulting in long wait times, housing precarity, and homelessness for many low-income women (Schwan et al. 2020 ). In 2020, there were 81,664 active applications on the housing waiting list in Toronto — up to seven years or longer for a bachelor and up to twel ve years or more for a one- bedroom unit (City of Toronto 2020). While this housing is much needed, it comes at a price : the expansion of community surveillance from other tenants, housing officials, and property owners. W omen in social housing felt scrutinized and watched, even within the privacy of their own homes. Privacy is a privilege that poor mothers are often systemically denied: “The right to privacy may of course be illusory , especially for women, the mentally or criminally ‘deviant,’ sexual minorities and other oppressed groups” (V alverde and Weir 2006: 79). Eligibly conditions to access social housing are highly bureaucratic and data driven, demonstrating how normalized surveillance of the poor has become. It has been widely documented that social housing (and the private housing market) discriminates against low-income women on social assistance, especially those who are racialized, Indigenous, or fleeing violence (Barata and Stewart 2006; Drabble and McInnes 2017; Gotthilf and Stavem 2015; Maki 2017; OHRC 2008; Ontario Native Women’ s Association 2018; Ponic and Jategaonkar 2010; Schwan et al. 2020). The twelve-page application form requires personal information about the applicant’ s dependa nts, income, criminal records, previous rental agreements, health status, and so on (Housing Services Corporation 2013). Once completed, it is reviewed by the social housing registry, where the data is uploaded to the central waiting list database that uses algorithms to rank applicants on a hierarchy of “need.” Social housing is intertwined with the welfare surveillance apparatus as the former can request verification of the applicant’ s OW benefits and even their caseworker ’s co ntact information. Recipients and advocates in this study were concerned about the computer – and human-based surveillance imposed upon them from both welfare and social housing authorities. Claire pointed out that any changes to social assistance policy coincide directly with individu als’ capability to secure safe and affordable housing, thus linking marginalization, surveillance, and regulation to systemic inequality: Ontario Works is finding more and more ways to disentitle people. So then people can’t af ford places to live and what happens then? They end up in shelter systems. They end up in rooming houses where conditions are bad. They get sicker . What happens then? Health care costs kick in.… Or if they are in a bad situation, they get in troubl e with the law. Then we have the criminal justice side that kicks in. Claire’s quote makes clear the web of connectivity between welfare, social housing, and the criminal justice system. The data-sharing reach among these groups also creates more opportunities for system flags and errors that prompt further investigations and intrusions. It is inherently designed in a way to disentitle people. Additional layers of surveillance and scrutiny were also reported by mothers who fled domestic violence. They had to attend a special meeting to plead their case to apply for the Special Priority Policy ( SPP ), a socia l housin g priority category reserved for victims of domestic violence (City of Toronto 2018). The SPP req uires that survivors provide “proof” (i.e., documentation) that abuse has taken place, which can be difficult to obtain, particularly for women who did not file a formal police report (Maki 2017 ). As well, survivors of abuse are asked to rete ll their traumatic stories of abuse to strangers, which in itself can be re-traumatizing and cause further harm (Ponic, Varcoe, and Smutylo 2016). To make matters worse, social housing workers are not necessarily trained to deal with those who have experienced trauma 3 and there is the potential for those in posi tions of power to abuse their status and belittle those trying to access help. The women I interviewed confirmed that this process was dehumanizing, triggering, and scary . In one city, the social housing officer responsible for reviewing and surveilling the SPP was notorious for being a “nasty man ” wh o often brought women to tears while they were pleading their cases. “He’s not nice at all … he has to read women. He has to realize whether women are lying or telling the truth … I know he has to do this but you’re scaring the shit out of these women; they’re coming from abused men,” recalled Fiona. The insensitivity and harm that is caused with an abusive man in this position of power is indicative of the state’ s inability to recognize the interconnection between domestic and systemic violence against low income women. The system needs to be reor ganized to ensure that meetings are trauma-informed, survivor -centred, and create safety, so that these women can navigate these systems and secu re a safe place to live and not be re-traumatized in the process. Those who had been lucky enough to secure social housing (some were denied or still waiting) were quick to realize that the compromise they had made was the complete loss of their privacy . Gloria said that welfare and social housing were “nosy,” and she was surprised that “they didn’t ask me for my underwear colour and bra size.” She was anxious that social housing or the property manager could stop by anytime unannounced to “inspect” her home. This fear was internalized by all of the mothers I spoke with. I could tell that Gloria held a deep mistrust for authorities, and even though I explained the confidentiality of what we spoke about and that I did not work for welfare or social housing, she was careful about what she shared with me. Many of the women had had bad experiences with authorities who manage their housing and social assistance and developed strategies to stay safe and undetected. Unfortunately for some, like Gloria, this means that they did not have very many friends or interact with their neighbours, which ultimately contributed to isolation. Fiona also shared a nu mber of complaints about the living conditions and the lack of privacy in social housing. She desperately wants to finish her education, find a good job, and find a rental in the private housing market to secure her independence and obtain some level of privacy and dignity: I hate it, I absolutely do. The neighbours are extremely nosy . The house is full of moul d … Housing doesn’t like to do very much of anything. You have to push them to get a lock changed.… They charged me fifty dollars just to come put a new lock in the hole. Fifty dollars !… I would love to get a house somewhere else. I hate it there. Once she’s old enough to go to daycare … and I go back to schoo l, I would love to be able to make enough money to get of f Ontario W orks and get my own house. Poor living conditions also combined with stigma and surveillance to negatively impact some mothers’ mental health. Single mothers consulted in this study cited countless stories of substandard social housing where mould, overcrowding, cockroaches, bedbugs, broken-down appliances, and unsafe conditions left them feeling insecure, overcrowded, unhealthy , and unsafe within their homes. Sylvia shared the impacts of her hous ing on her mental health with me. She lives in a housing co-op and struggles with a host of mental health problems, including depression, chronic fatigue and anxiety, which she said were aggravated by her cramped living conditions. “Due to my situation, I’m depressed and I feel so claustrop hobic in my house.… Every day I feel sick in the place. I wak e up and I feel sick stomach; I just want to get out of there … I don’ t want to live there anymore … I just want out.” Sylvia’ s experience illustrates the toxic physical and mental health consequence s that social housing, poverty, marginalization, and stigmatization can create. Racialized single mothers, like Sylvia, felt exceptionally surveilled, trapped, judged, and harassed in social housing or co-ops , wh ere they experienced racist gossip, infighting and lateral violence. Tenants with similar financial hardships who live in close quarters come to know each other’s lives, and welfare authorities count on this fact for reports to the welfare fraud hotlines. Community surveillance of single mothers over the past twenty years has increased due to anonymous tips to the hotlines, child welfare agencies, and by-law enforcement. “It’s just constant, people phoning on each other, whether they’re friends or not,” said Emma. Some mothers found that anonymous tips, resulting in investigations, cou ld often be traced back to disgruntled neighbours or angry ex-partners. Their fears were grounded in the reality that for the past two decades, spouse-in-the-house violations and suspicion of single mothers on social assistance have dominated the media and welfare fraud hotlines reports (Mosher et al. 2004). Single mothers’ concern about calls to authorities was heightened by the risk that investigations could result in their worst fear, the removal of their children from the home. In addition to surveillance, the lack of privacy , and the perpetual culture of fear , racialized single mothers shared painful example s of stigmatization because they were poor, living in social housing, racialized, single mothers, and/or survivors of domestic violence. Emma, an Indigenous single mother, was particularly sensitive to the invasion of her privacy from various authorities and argued that being poor put her at risk for judgments and “picking” through her private life. She felt those who entered her home judged her as inferior and associated certain appearances and the lack of certain consumer goods (by middle-class standards) with the well-being of her children. Claire criticized the media for circulating stereotypes about those who live in social housing: “Those poor people are undeserving and they don’t appreciate anything. Those are the messages that are being dictated through these media stories … it’s all ‘those immigrants’ that are undeserving taking everything from everybody else.” The mothers I spoke with were acutely aware of the racist and gendered stereotypes and stigma associated with social housing and poverty , yet they had few housing options available to them because OW benefits are so low and there is such a critical shortage of af fordable housing. RELA TIONSHIPS WITH W ELFARE C ASEWORKERS The relationship between single mothers on assistance and their welfare caseworkers lies at the heart of single mothers’ frustrations and anxiety with the welfare surveillance apparatus and illustrates the ways that surveillance is tied up in moral regulation. Transforming recipients into “good workers” is a pro cess that requires human oversight and discipline to achieve the desired outcomes — moving them as quickly as possible off of social assistance. As we know , the welfare surveillance apparatus is much more than just technology and algorithms that govern at a dista nce using automations to sort and categorize. Like early welfare interventions, human beings enforce the mandates of welfar e. The role of the caseworker — like the supe rintendents in the Houses of Industry and the social workers who came after to manage the Mothers’ Allowance — is to monitor and regulate recipients and enforce the rules. This has always been the goal. The welfare surveillance apparatus involves a complex web of related threads that connect policy and regulations to computer surveillance and to the caseworkers that manage recipients. Deb Matthews, MPP and the then-parliamentary assistant to the MCCSS , des cribed the punitive nature of the rules and how unevenly they are administered: There are now approximately 800 rules and regulations that must be applied before a client’ s eligibility and the amount of their monthly cheque can be determined. Many of those rules are punitive and designed not to support people, but rathe r to keep them out of the system. Because there are so many rules, they are expensive to administer and often applied inconsistently from one caseworker to another, even within the same office. Further , the rules are so complicated that they are virtually impossible to communicate to clients, and it takes years to train a caseworker . (Matthews 2004: 25, emphasis added) For recipients, their only point of interaction with the system — and therefore their only opportunity to work out pressing issues — is through their caseworker . There is the Social Benefits Tribunal, where appeals are reviewed; however, a legal aid lawyer interviewed for this study said that this process is cumbersome, highly bureaucratic, and often did not result in recipients’ favour. Co nsequently , recipients look to their caseworkers as a resource to help them navigate problems that arise. Mothers expressed, though, that their caseworkers were more invested in monitoring them than in actually providing one-on-one counselling, access to resources, employment supports, and sufficient tools and strategies to move them out of poverty . This is no surprise due to the punitive and regulatory nature of how OW is set up; recipients often perceive their caseworker as purposefully doing harm to them or personally responsible for enforcing surveillance and regulation because there are significant inconsistencies in how casewo rkers “interpret” the complex rules and legislation. Since most women had been assigned multiple caseworkers over the duration of their time on OW, they had mixed experiences. Often, at the beginning of my interviews, mothers would say that they “didn’ t ha ve any problems” with their current worker. This occurred for several reasons, but two stand out: first, we had not yet established trust and they felt that they could not be honest with me; second, they actually had a good worker or previously had one in the past. All of the mothers, even those who were the most critical of the welfare system, acknowledged the caseworkers who had assisted them and treated them with respect and kindness. A few even recognized the very ways that caseworkers are also under scrutiny in the welfare surveillance apparatus: “She was more willing to bend the rules … they do think outside the box.… They’ve got what is it, 800 policies they have to follow?… That’ s a ridiculous number to try and stay on top of.… Short of telling them when they can blink, they’re told everything else” (Jane). Some, like Sylvia, who had a terrible relationship with her worke r, still believed that her caseworker was just “doing her job.” Chantal had developed a friendship with her caseworker and was able to confide her journey of recovery , because she trusted her to not report her to child welfare. “She spoke to me as a mother , not as a caseworker … I let my guard down and so did she. Then we laughed. I walked out of there feeling really good, which is cool! I like her and she sees another part of me.” Other mothers shared: We w ould also like to hear from their side too. It’s not just a one-sided problem. It’ s everybody’s problem. (T ara) She knows it’s hard out there and she’ s a single mom too; she has two of her own children. (Chantal) She’s pr etty nice. I’ve had a few good caseworkers along the way. (Marie) I ha d one caseworker that was pretty good, I remember , who tried to help us as much as she could. (Julia) The lady that I originally had, she was extremely nice. (Barb) Yeah, she was nice … I was really , really depressed and was drinking a lot and she got me out of it. (Lauren) While almost all single mothers reported that there are helpful caseworkers, it became apparent that they had little control over which worker was assigned to them and how long they remained with that worker . They also had few resources and little autonomy to negotiate relationships with the “bad workers” or to get transferred to a new caseworker . The problem, of course, is not even about the quality of one’ s caseworker but that the system is designed to discourage respectful and ongoing relationships between caseworkers and those they assist. The likely result, then, is that these women will encounter a caseworker who is less understanding of their situation and will not advocate for them. It also means that it is less probable that recipients can foster a meaningful and trusting relationship with their caseworker because they have no idea when they will be transferred to a new caseworker . This is intentional and another “ritual of degradation” that keeps recipients in a constant state of stress, not knowing when and to whom they will be transferred. The following examples illustrate some of the recurring altercations with caseworkers that recipients have had to manage. Power and Contr ol While some single mothers may not be aware of the extensive new technologies of surveillanc e implemented under Harris’ s welfare reforms twenty years ago, their stories about OW generally had abundant examples of feeling watched and scrutinized by their caseworkers — and at times these uncomfortable interactions included classist, racist, and sexist remarks. Single mothers related the different ways that they felt dehumanized in their relationships with their caseworkers and how threats of suspende d benefits, surveillance, and investigations were constantly wielded against them. Chantal felt the lack of informa tion she was given about her options on OW demonstrated a “power struggle” between caseworkers and recipients: “I used to say to my caseworker that you don’t realize that we see you in a position of power . You’re the one who sends me my cheque. You’re the one who gives me the money .” This power struggle was encapsulated in the lack of transparency in rules as well as entitlements, information that is critical to their successfully navigating Ontario Works. Annie felt “like a puppet on a string” because “you can’t do nothing, you can’t change any of it.… They have all the control.… The government decides where you live and if you eat that day or not.” Sisters Diane and Annie, who were interviewed together, said they felt that welfare was “violating,” as though “you’re not in control of your own life; somebody’ s controlling whether you eat or whether you pay your rent — whether your daughter gets a new pair of shoes or not” (Diane). Diane argued that caseworkers often try to “play God and control other people’ s lives,” wondering how her caseworker was able to sleep at night knowing that recipients, including her, were going hungry. Conversely , Danielle shared that many caseworkers hid behind management and “the system.” She said, “They don’t listen, they don’t care. They just say ‘this is what we’re told to do, and we can’ t help you. I’m sorry but our boss is higher than me telling me that I can’ t help you.’” Women felt that meetings with their caseworkers were fraught with patronizing attitudes, suspicion, and mistrust. “You feel like your own mother doesn’t keep as much tabs on you as they do … I’m forty-four years old” (Tara). Some of the women interviewed sensed that some caseworkers took their requests for aid personally and were quick to make judgments and question their motives. They described caseworkers who behaved as though they were taking money out of their own pockets when granting them financial benefits, signa lling that welfare is a privilege granted by welfare authorities not a fundamental human right. For instance, Marie said, “Their attitude … really made me feel like they were giving me their money, like their own personal money . As though they shouldn’ t give me it and that I shouldn’ t be able to have pizza once in a while.… It’s like you’re living under their thumb .” Marie was not alone; many of the mothers I spoke with felt that they were scrutinized on their purchases and felt guilty for wanting to treat themselves and their children once in a whi le with a movie, new clothing, or takeout. Several Black and Indigenous single mothers experienced heightened judgment and racism from caseworkers, who questioned their mothering and the state of their homes. Indigenous single mothers Julia and Emma echoed this sentiment, calling attention to the class and racial tensions between welfare recipients and caseworkers: “You’re fighting for every little cent … they make you feel like you’re a lowlife; it’s like you’re a lower class” (Julia). Emma felt disparaged in her interactions with caseworkers who “judged” her impoverishe d circumstance s. She explained, “It almost feels like when you’re going into their office that they’re reaching into their pockets and saying, ‘ oh my god, another hundr ed dollars for you! ’” Janic e, a young, single Black mother who was pregnant with her second child, was in her last year of high school when we spoke. She was smart, determined, and eager to graduate, apply for community college, and be a good mother to her children. Janice felt very uncomfortable with some questions that her caseworker asked regarding her second pregnancy and sensed that her worker implied that she should have an abortion. She felt that this interaction was “weird”: I me t w ith her a few weeks ago and she asked me why I am having another child.… She said, “Why are you having a second child if you’re having a hard time with your first?”… How do you expect me to explain that to her? It happened and I don’ t like the thought of having an abortion, and I know I am capable of raising another baby. It’s going to be hard, but I know I can do it. Considering the power imbalanc e between the caseworker and Janice and the fact that the caseworker controls Janice’s economic survival, these comments are invasive and problematic. As well, this fear of Black women’ s sexuality and reproduction is not new and has historically been used as a reason to limit eligibility for benefits. Such power imbalances and power abuses limit welfare recipients’ capacity to enter into a more equitable and dignified relationship with their caseworkers. Moreover, these encounters are rife with red flags of financial abuse — but from the state rather than an intimate partner. Unfortunately , this led to mothers feeling that they were undeserving, guilty, immoral, criminally suspect, untrustworthy , lazy , or weak. Generally speaking, they were made to feel like “bad mothers” simply for needing financial assistance. Emma felt demoralized by negative stereotypes that labelled her “a welfare queen, a welfare bum, a bad mother , a welfare cheat, and lazy.” Clear ly, their comments reveal how deeply they had internalized the power dynamic with their caseworkers, stigma from society , and feelings that they were undeserving and “bad” for needing social assistance. Another way that single mothers felt controlled were through limitations on their mobility . Recipients of social assistance are not allowed to leave the province for any period without permission from their caseworkers ( MCCSS 2018a). The potential to move and travel is a privilege many take for granted, but it is a right denied to the most marginalized people in Ontario. V acations, visiting family , and exploring job options in other provinces are not available to welfare recipients. Tara was “quite shocked” at the extent to which a friend of hers was questioned by a caseworker regarding a trip to visit family . The worker interrogated the woman, asking questions about “how was she paying for the ticket and what transportation she was going on, if it was plane, train, or bus … and they wanted to see her ticket.… They wanted to know who sent the ticket for her.” Once again, OW protocols and regulations imply that recipients are “naturally” fraudsters and cheats. The power imbalance was further manifested through the lack of consistency and transparency for discretionary benefits. Withh olding this information from recipients is arguably an abuse of power . In addition to monthly benefits, OW offers discretionary benefits for recipients, including health- related dental and vision care for adults, prosthetics, funerals and burials, and heating payments. Non-health-related discretionary benefits covered vocational training and retraining, travel and transpor tation for non-health-related reasons, moving expenses, and other special services and must be approved by an OW director ( MCCSS 201 8f). At the time of the interviews, recipients with dependants were entitled to $1,500 and individuals up to $700 in discretionary benefits every two years, yet few of the women knew that any additional supports were available. Discretionary benefits were essential yet difficult to obtai n, as OW offices and some caseworkers deliberately kept this information from recipients to discourage their use. When they did request these benefits, they felt that decisions on whether to allow benefits or not were unfair . Cas eworkers are “very inconsistent about sharing information with their clients … there is extra funding for other things, but they don’t tell you,” said Marie. In fact, caseworkers are expected to limit the distribution of discretionary benefits to keep costs down (Government of Ontario 2014). Consequently , many of the women only found out about clothing allowances, dental benefits, moving funds, or other emergency support through welfare advocates, informal networks, or conversations with friends and family . Many women shared examples of caseworkers who withheld this critical information about supports that could have helped them during emergencies. Julia recalled an incident when her caseworker denied her a discretionary benefit request; she had a severe flood in her apartm ent caused by her upstairs neighbours, who had left a faucet running. Julia contacted her caseworker immediately to get assistance to clean it up and replace household items that had been destroyed. Her worker said that Julia would have to use her moving allowance to pay for the damages; however, Jul ia knew that there had to be other support available to her and asked her worker to look into more options. The caseworker concluded that OW would only cover the cost to replace a mattress. Julia left the meeting defeated , but fortunately a secretary stopped her and informed her that she was legally entitled to an emer gency fund. Julia recalled, “This was the secretary that was helping me get the money that I was entitled to. I wouldn’ t have known otherwise. I would have only put in a claim for the mattress and nothing else.” The secretar y then whispered to her , “but we don’t tell everybody ,” suggesting the system is exclusionary in its allocation of these funds. Jane was also critical of her caseworker ’s lack of transparency regarding the availability of discretionary benefits: I never learned about this discretionary money. When I had to go in for my annual review and bring in all of my bank statements, documents, and everything under the sun … . I jus t happe ned to mention that I was going to have to save up and try to get my son a new booster seat … and my caseworker said, “we can help with that” … I had never heard of this discretionary benefit, so I was floor ed ! Due to the extensive OW rules for eligibility , neoliberal cost- cutting measures, and the lack of transparency regarding what constitutes a discretionary benefit, it is obvious why so many women were unaware of the supports to which they are entitled. Keeping this information from low-income mothers can have devast ating effects on their health and wellness as well as their living conditions, and it is indicative of the very power struggle that Chantal mentioned earlier in this chapter . Workfar e While Ontario Works promises to help individuals realize their “full potential” through their workfare policies, too often the choices that are offered limit rather than expand options beyond a precarious, poorly paid service-sector job with no benefits. The women who shared their stories with me disrupted the stereotype that single mothers on social assistance do not work or are lazy . It was not that they did not work; it was that many of the types of labour in which they engaged were not considered sufficient or adequate. Here I touch on some of the differe nt ways that recipients were obliged to meet workfare requirements and the role caseworkers played in enforcement. As we shall see, unpaid, gendered work, or social reproduction (labour that is predominantly performed by women or considered “women’s work”) — which kept families functioning, cared for extended families, contributed to their communities, and helped others in infor mal ways — was not recognized as “real work” because it did not provide a financial base to move recipients off welfare. It was completely up to caseworkers’ discretion on what activities were deemed appropriate, including volunteer work. Indigenous and Black single mothers spoke to the challenges they encountered in supporting their extended families, providing additional care work, and volunteering in their communities as this was not seen as “work.” Julia was enrolled in upgrading and literacy classes as a condition of her participation agreement. She also volunteered with an Indigenous women’s survivor group, yet her caseworker did not recognize this as an appropriate workfare activity. Claire worked part-time as an advocate for low-income housing in her community , which she reported to her caseworker . She also volunteered with anti-poverty groups, which was connected to her paid advoca cy position, yet it was not considered work. Janice was completing her last year of high school while caring for her infant. She also provided free childcare for her extended family but was told by her caseworker that she should charge for her babysitting services. Additionally , her caseworker asked her to work during the summer months, when she was not in school , des pite the fact that she had an infant and the summer months are a time when her relatives needed the most help with childcare, as they worked multiple jobs and could not afford camps or other programs for the kids. In addition to ignoring the various types of labour that single mothers perform, many women shared their frustration with a system that denied them choice in what programs, education, or careers they would like to pursue. Almost all of the single mothers interviewed aspired to go back to school and upgrade their skills, and some were ready for college and university programs. They related goals of becoming a travel agent, for instance, or a nu rse, a counsellor , a chef, a social worker , or a personal support worker . Interestingly , many aspired to helping or social work professions with the hope of “giving back.” However, the employment and educational opportunities OW would accept or fund were limited and often totally disconnected from the needs and aspirations of recipients. Jane volunteered on an anti-poverty board, took on part-time contract work and reported the additional income to OW . Even though she was happy with the work and found it rewarding and flexible enough to meet her childcare needs, Jane was asked to find permanent full-time work at a call centre or as a personal support worker. Tara’ s requests to enter a college travel agent program were repeatedly denied; instead, her caseworker strongly encourage d her to enrol in computer classes even though she had no interest in the program. With few options and no credentials, Tara had to take an under -the- table cleaning job where her employer took advantage of her as a wel fare recipient. She knew that if she pushed back, they could report her to welfare authorities, resulting in her losing her benefits. She faced triple discrimination in the labour market as a Black woman, as a single mother , and as a welfare recipient. Limiting these women’ s options only further perpetuates the feminization of poverty and reserve army of cheap and disposable labour for the service and care economy . A study about workfare in Ontario found that recipients were discouraged from attending higher education or from seeking further credentialization, thus impeding recipients’ capacity to obtain permanent good jobs (Vaillancourt 2010). My study similarly found that OW’ s bureaucracy and red tape prevented women from accessing higher education, as welfare will not pay for upgrading or schooling (even online courses) unless recipients are enrolled full time . This is impossible for many single parents and for those working part time or irregular hours. Barb spoke freely of her dissatisfaction with OW not allowing her to enrol in post-secondary education because she could not collec t student loans while on social assistance (a practice that was common prior to the 1990s but now is considered fraud). She also endured patronizing and sexist remarks from her caseworker , who discouraged her from going to school while pregnant even though Barb was healthy and felt completely able to attend classes. “Then I got pregnant with him and they said, ‘well you know you’ve got so much going on; come back when you’re ready again.’” Despite OW’s workfare focus on employability and moving single mothers into the job market and off of welfare, in practice, funding rules and red tape often rule out options for women that may actually lift them out of poverty . There were many telling examples of the tensions and contradictions for single parents — expectations for them to work or not work. Danielle and Diane’ s experiences demonstrate the striking differences in policy interpretation and how difficult it is to reconcile mothering and workfare. Diane has always worked full time in the service sector as a cashier . She took time off work and went on EI when she had her first baby; however , when her partner left and her EI ran out, she had to apply for social assistance . As Dian e disclo sed, “Well, when I first had the baby [and] my daughter was four to five days old, I still had stitches in my crotch and the lady tried to tell me that I had to start looking for work immediately!” As a yo ung mother , Danielle had a dif ferent experience. She was determined to finish grade twelve and receive her high school diploma. However, her caseworker overtly discouraged her from finishing high school because her daughter was under school age, which exempted her from workfare. As well, the caseworker tried to dissuade her because Danielle’s child support agreement had not been finalized. But Danielle wanted independence and a better future, so she questioned her caseworker’s logic: “Instead of having a support order agreement from my ex … why can’t you give me a chance to go to school? Why can’t you pay for daycare?” Danielle’s caseworker failed to mention the Learning, Earning and Parenting Program that assists young parents in finishing high school ( MCCSS 2015). Unable to move forward with her, Danielle fell into a severe depression, feeling isolated and stuck. In some cases, especially for young mothers, mothering is treated as the primary role and responsibility of the recipient. For others, mothering is deeme d secondary to workfare and employability . In all cases, each mother ’s “choice” was vetoed by the caseworker and unilaterally decided by the state. Choice was also racialized, as Black mothers’ extended family care and Indigen ous women’ s volunteer work were not seen as real forms of work or productive contributions. Many of the women I interviewed felt that they “could not win, no matter what”; they felt stuck in a system that prevented them from moving forward on their own terms and ignored the important contributions that they did make as mothers, caregivers, and volunteers in their communities. CONCLUSION From the perspectives of single mothers on assistance, welfare surveillance is an insidious and deeply normalized part of their daily interaction s with the Ontario welfare state. Welfare surveillance is accompanied by control, regulation, and moral judgment, all of which impact single mothers’ everyday lives. They faced similar yet diver gent struggles, and intersections of race, gender , class, age, and disability facilitated different barriers, discriminations, and interventions from caseworkers. Like Gilliom’ s ( 2001: 51) findings, my interv iews with single mothers revealed how oppressive welfare surveillance can be and how it “works as a form of domination over welfare clients.” My findings digress from Gilliom’ s in relation to his critique of the privacy debates as a limited framework for understanding and resisting welfare surveillance. While I agree that situating everyday life and social reproduction, such as caring for one’ s family and basic needs (food, shelter, clothing), was of central importance and concern among the women I interviewed, they did, unlike Gilliom’ s participants, draw on privacy rights discourses to challenge welfare surveillance and point to the ways that it could be resisted. My sample, however, was urban and included women who were actively involved in anti-poverty activism and advocacy for and with other single mothers. They were acutely aware that they had essentially signed over their privacy rights in their “rights and responsibilities” form as part of their application, but it did not hinder them from asserting the various ways in which their privacy was violated by welfare authorities. I am not suggesting that advocating for one’s privacy rights is the ideal or only strategy to combat welfare surveilla nce; I am rathe r noting that some women did point to it as a way to demand to be treated with more dignity and respect in a system designed to make them ineligible and the experience so dehumanizin g that they would voluntarily leave because they could no longer handle the abuse. A sign ificant portion of the interviews consisted of discussions about the surveillance and scrutiny levelled against single mothers, how awful the experience was for them, and how it dif fered depending on their age, race, and cultural capital and resources. They opened up to me and shared how it felt to live unde r surveillance. Not all women were treated the same but they did all live under the weight of the welfare surveillance apparatus and had to navigate excessive demands for “proof” that they were deserving. They shared numerous examples of feeling watched, often by a caseworker or by “the system,” but rarely mentioned the computers or software that tracks them. When I probed to find out more about what they thought of these technologies, they often came back to human- based surveillance as enacted by their caseworkers. In many ways, this particular scrutiny is what they feared most due to the significant power imbalance and reliance on caseworkers for their financial survival. None of the women I spoke to were even aware of the forthcoming significant technological change to implement welfare debit cards to replace cheques, demonstrating how little knowledge (and therefore power) is provided to recipients to fully know the system they must endure. This is largely because such informati on is purposefully kept from them and the general public. Even as a relatively privileged Queen’s University graduate student, I struggled to find information about the SDMT and CVP bur ied in a labyrinth of polices and regulations, and caseworkers and especially management were not particula rly keen to tell me how it all worked. Regardless of naming the systems or technology , the women knew that they were being surveilled and that their personal information was being shared across a host of government bodies; they clearly articulated that they “felt” surveillance most in their interactions with caseworkers, an important aspect of the welfare surveillance apparatus. Almost half of the women interviewed had experienced abuse by an intimate partner. The connection between intimate relationship abuse and the abuse they endure in the welfare system was apparent in their stories of degradation and control. As Mosher et al. (2004: 79) note, “For many the experience of welfare is like another abusive relationship .” The neoliberal welfare state acts in many ways like an abusive partner . Coercive behaviour was a common thread among the women I spoke to — not from former partners, but from the welfare system. Intimidation, such as insults, controlling movement, overseeing spending, curtailing relationships with others, scrutiny , humiliation, and psychological and emotional abuse (Carmen and Aspinall 2020: n.p.), was common among their experience s. It is such a powerful mechanism of control because it is insi dious and works by limiting the victim’ s sense of freedo m with the “intention to remove the victim’ s sense of individuality and prevent them from believing they have the ability to make their own decisions.” Many of these tactics are a discip linary function of the welfare surveillance apparatus, bent on “transforming” or remo ving recipients from so-called welfare dependency . Many of the women had internalized the stigma, shame, regulation, and surveillance of their everyday lives. In so many ways, these women were watching their own actions and behaviours before any intervention because the punishment for infringement of the rules was so severe and a threat to their and their children’ s lives. In many ways, this is what victims of abuse do — they internalize their feelings to survive. Notes 1. Fo r a con servative perspective on welf are debit cards and their potential in surveilling and curtailing welfare recipients’ spending, see Tim Hudak 2013 and Artuso and Jenkins 2013. 2. See Euban ks 2006 on smart cards and their use to discipline and surveil the poor in the US. 3. For a primer on working with diverse women who experience poverty, systemic oppression, and trauma, see East and Roll 2015. 4: E xp an din g t h e W elf a re S urv eilla n ce A ppara tu s T HE F AMILY R ESPONSIBILITY O FFICE AND CHILD W ELFARE T he single mothers I interviewed for this study believed it was impossible to separate their experiences of welfare surveillance from their interactions with other government services that regulated child support payments and child welfare. Welfare surveillance entwined government and non- government authorities in the welfare surveillance apparatus, levelling more surveillance and intrusion into the lives of poor women. The data and information sharing that bolsters the investigative powers of other governing bodies can be understood as “surveillance mashups ” involving ongoing tracking and monitoring of welfare recipients (Pleace 2007). This illustrates the powerful interconnected web of welfare surveillance that can trigger various “red flags” that prompt numerous investigations for previously undetectable (and often incorrect) “offences.” There are many government and non-government bodies that are involved in surveillance mashups — the criminal justice system, Canada Border Services Agency, and Immigration Canada come to mind; however , with my particular sample, caseworkers and single mothers identified two organiza tions of particular concern: the Family Respons ibility Office ( FRO ) and the Children’ s Aid Society ( CA S, also known as child welfare ). Child welfare and the FRO have differing powers and purposes compared to social assistance, but they are still governed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services ( MCCSS ). The FRO collects and processes child support payments legally mandated by a court of law . The CAS , on the other hand, is governed by the legislative framework of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act , administered by the government of Canada, and it is lar gely funded and monitored by the government of Ontario, yet it remains somewhat at arm’ s length. While steeped in moral regulation, the CAS also holds significant powers that can involve apprehending children and placing them in state care. Like welfare, these divisions have complicated histories that were built on colonialism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarch y, which continue to frame state and legal responses to poor families, notably those headed by single mothers. While all of the mothers I spoke with shared a mistrust of these governing bodies that was often based on negative experiences, Indigenous and Black single mothers’ stories are centred in this chapter as they faced some of the harshest investigations and treatment. THE F AMILY R ESPONSIBILITY O FFICE AND O NTARIO W ORKS Under neoliberal pressures to cut costs, Ontario Works initiated a “diversion” policy to force single mothers to “track down” child support payments from absent fathers to offset social assistance benefits ( MCCSS 1995). As outlined in the OW A , recipients and applicants are required “to pursue any income that may be available to them” ( MCCSS 2017). However , at the time of my interviews and until altered in 2017, any and all financial compensation from child support payments was considered “income” and deducted dollar-for-dollar from their social assistance. Clearly this was a punitive policy that was helping OW more than recipients. Today , these directives still expect single mothers to “volu ntarily” cooperate in locating absent fathers; however , OW revised the policy so that child support payments were no longer a “condition of eligibility” and that child support was no longer considered “income” and deducted from monthly benefits ( MCCSS 2017). Nonetheless, the policy is still strict and places great expectations on recipients: “if reasonable efforts are not being made to pursue spousal support, assistance may be denied or reduced.” Single parents’ pursuit of support can be permanently waved, though, if their spouse is deceased, if it has been fully documented “that there is an ongoing risk of domestic violence,” or if the father cannot be found after a “reasonable search period” of two years ( MCCSS 2017). Any additional supports (whether spousal or child) received are heavily monitored through the electronic FRO Case Management System ( FCMS ), a database that records and processes file reviews, court orders for support, agreements, documentation to support waiver decisions, reviews of expired waivers, and so on ( MCCSS 2017). Many of the file reviews are random and triggered by the FCMS . It is unclear who has access to this databas e but presumably it is both OW and FRO caseworkers. In general, there appeared to be a blurring in the work done by these different departments, but it was clear that they do cooperate on things like investigations. Recipients must file support with the FRO , which can be done online or in person, even though the request is made by Ontario Works. This application involves sharing personal information about their former spouse, such as their name, birth date, address, employment history, and social insurance number, which is all recorded into the FCMS . The FRO is a program o f the MCCSS that operates under the authority of the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enfor cement Act, 1996 . It receives all spousal support payments and is empowered “to take enforcement action against those who do not meet their family responsibilities” (MCCSS 2017). This division conducts investigations to locate biological parents (most often fathers), enforce paternity tests, and compel biological parents to provide child support payments. The standard investigation involved a representative from the FRO and/or a n OW caseworker (several mothers indicated that their caseworker was involved in the process) to meet with the recipient and decipher who is legally responsible for child support payments. Questioning was incredibly invasive, inquiring as to how women got pregnant, the reasons for their separa tion from the father , and the father ’s current relationship to the family . The directive reads as gender neutral; however , the majority of the time it is the father who is absent as the vast majority of single parents are women. If the father is unknown or disputed, the FRO can require paternity tests. Specifically, in relation to the absent parent, the FRO has substantial powers. They can garnish bank accounts and Government of Canada entitlements, such as income tax refunds, employment insurance benefits, Canada Pension Plans benefits, and Old Age Security benefits ( MCCSS 2017). Absent parents can also be reported to credit bureau s or denied a driver’s licence , Canadian passport and/or other federal licen ces (including a pilot’ s licence, as well as maritime and navigational licences and certificates). The FRO can place a lien on personal property or issue a writ of seizure and sale for any such property . The list also includes the threat to make a report to the absent parent’s prof essional or occupational organization(s) , seize lottery winnings , and initiate a default hearing that could result in up to 180 days of jail time. Experiences with the Family Responsibility Office OW caseworkers were largely supportive of the FRO investigations and even described the positive aspects. A few felt that these investigations were necessary and actually helped single mothers, as child support payments would benefit them financially . Kim argued that the FRO provides recipients with a “free service” so that absent parents are not “off the hook for financially providing for their families.” Tom also reflected on this policy , saying, “of course it’s surveillance … not so much on the women, although you have to ask them and make them disclose personal and embarrassing things. The surveillance piece is really on the man in order to hunt him down, if you will, that’s a strong word.” These examples highlight the differing experiences of those administering versus those living through surveillance and how, depending on where one is located in the welfare surveillance apparatus, perceptions and experiences can be drastically dif ferent. The women in my study had mixed feelings about the FRO that were largely skeptical of the process. They felt that investigations regarding a biological father’s identity and whereabouts made them feel they had done something wrong and, for survivors of abuse, left them feeling vulnerable to further abuse, stalking, or harassment . Simil ar to their encounters with welfare caseworkers, single mothers felt intimidated by FRO investigations and at risk of financial punishment unless they produced “results” that helped to locate the biological father in question. Their fears were well founded, since, if they did not make “reasonable efforts” to secure child support (assessment of which is left to the discretion of individual caseworkers and the FRO ), they can have monthly benefits reduced or suspended ( MCCSS 2017). The policy raises important questions on what (and who) determines whether a “reasonable effort” has been made and if it is an appropriate use of singl e mothers’ time to take on the responsibility of “tracking down” her former partner . This entire process was frustrating for single mothers for several reasons. Some were well aware that their former partners, who were also living in poverty themselves, could not afford the payments. For instance, Julia’s ex-partner was receiving ODSP and she felt it was pointless to try to get child support from him: “They obviously couldn’t get money from him, but it was still the formality of it. It was a waste of time. L ike, why do I have to apply for child support when you know that he’s not going to pay it because he’s on disability and you basically can’t touch him.” As well, several mothers, especially those who had maintained friendships and co- parented with their ex-partners, noted that they did receive small payments from their ex-partners even though it was not “on the books.” The reason they kept this hidden was because at the time, child support payments were clawed back from their monthly welfare cheque, putting them no further ahead. So they lied to ensure that their children could actually benefit from the payments. The policy at the time considered child support as a form of income, so it left few options for them to work out their own arrangements, as anything unclaimed could be considered “fraud.” For the women who did not have good relationships with their ex-partners, they knew it was pointless for the FRO to try to enforce child support payments. Emma and Danielle, for instance, confirmed that the fathers of their children would “disappear” or “go under ground” to avoid paying. The FRO ’s emphasis on enforcing child support payments ignores the role poverty may have played in causing the family to split up in the first place, and the policy at the time did not provide any incentives for mothers to pursue support as it made no differe nce to their overall financial situation. FRO investigations were described as demoralizing, patronizing, a waste of their time, and an invasio n of their privacy . Despite the fact that they complied with all investigative procedures, they were still treated as suspicious and untrustworthy . In particul ar, Black women said their caseworkers made them feel guilty and criminal for being a single mother. Sylvia, for example, had a caseworker who repeatedly questioned her on the identity of the father of her children, “like I was lying … she’s looking at me, like, are you being truthful?” She was questioned repeatedly on his whereabouts and how to track him down, making her feel like she was in an interrogation. Investigations left mothers feeling that authorities did not trust them and suspected that they protecting their ex-partners, which could be construed as “fraud.” Tara also commented that her caseworker “was so mean and rude … it was almost like they were trying to intimidate me … because she said, ‘oh if we really needed to look, really investigate, we could.’” Indigenous single mother Emma was in disbelief about the amount of information her caseworker insisted she supply regarding her ex-partner: “they wanted to know scars, eye colour , hair colour , everything!… Everything, right down to where he was born … and who his mother is.” Emma understood that she had no choice in the matter and “gave them all the information they wanted.” Despite this, her worker “kept bugging me … to go file child support.” These processes can be a nightmare for single mothers who are trying to put their lives back together and gain their independence. As well, it perpetuated the sexist and racist biases inherent in Ontario Works that these mothers are untrustworthy and hiding something. FRO investigations are even more problematic for survivors of intimate partner violence. Of the mothers I interviewed, 44 percent (eight) had left abusive partners. This was the primary reason they did not have contact with their former partners, had lived in a women’ s shelter , used the law to obtain restraining orders, or were in hiding. Despite their disclosures of abuse, the FRO still required them to cooperate with the investigation, particularly if there was no official “proof” of the abuse. Many mothers said they needed additional support and coun selling during FRO investigations but their mental and emotional health took a back seat to the state’ s search for cost- cutting measures. And while some caseworkers I interviewed were sympathetic to the abuse survivors had endured, others felt that enforced child support payments were necessary and could even financially benefit lone parents after they leave social assistance. This policy is problematic as the complications arising from histories of abuse are decontextualized; further, if the abuse was not reported to authorities, there were no documents to prove it occurred. We know from multiple sources that many women never make an official report to the police about the abuse they endure (Connors and Johnson 2017; Crenshaw 2011; Mosher et al. 2004; Statistics Canada 2016b). Not reporting abuse to authorities may be a strategy to ensure the economic survival of the family , w hich may be crucial to women with very few resources or other options. Another reason is that mandatory charges have resulted in “double charging” or “counter char ging,” whereby the police can charge both parties with domestic violence, including the victim (Balfour and Comack 2004; Comack 2018; Cross 2011; INCITE ! W omen of Color Against Violence 2006; Mosher et al. 2004). Feminist lawyer Pamela Cross (2011) found that in some cases, “only the woman is char ged as a result of acting to protect or defend herself or her children from the abuser” and that racialized women experien ced higher levels of dual charging. Moreover , without adequate community and social supports for survivors, “mandatory policies can be inef fective or in some cases even reduce victim safety” (Conners and Johnson 2017 : 7). As a result, not all women, particularly racialized women, may find safety or protection from the legal system and some may even endure criminalization in their attempts to protect themselves and their children. Finally, another deterrent to reporting is the fear of losing their children; in all cases where the police are called for a dom estic dispute, they are required to contact child welfare authorities to assess the situation if there are children living in the home. This initiates more investigations, surveillance, and potential criminalization of poor families living on the margins and is especially worrying for Indigenous and other racialized single mothers (Balfour and Comack 2004; Crenshaw 2011; INCITE ! Women of Color Against V iolence 2006). Women’ s fear of contact with their abusers and the fact that it was often not taken seriously by welfare or FRO caseworkers was a concern for several mothers. Danielle had received a letter from Ontario Works requesting her to file for child support from her ex-partner , who had manipulated and emotionally abused her, would not let her leave her house, isolated her from her family and friends, and was physically abusive. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was terrified of her ex-partner lashing out if she filed for support. Fearing for her safety , Danielle pleaded with her caseworker to drop the case because she knew that her ex- partner did not have the financ ial means (he was assistance himself) and she worried the claim would reignite his violence. The caseworker threatened her “straight up” that if “you don’t find the information, then I’m taking him to court and then you’ll be in more trouble.” Several mothers reported instances when their caseworker s used intimidation and threats (abusive behaviour) to gain compliance with the requirement to seek child support, no matter the cost to the family or woman’ s safety . By far, the biggest deterrent to complying with this policy was fear — fear for their own lives and the lives of their children. Danielle’s mother , Kate, who accompanied her to the intervie w, exposed the contradictions of enforced child support payments for women who have fled domestic violence: “You’re leaving an abusive situation; why do you want to keep putting yourself back in that abusive situation to try to get information about your ex?” The fear and trauma with which these single mothers lived was grounded in the reality that more violence and escalation was possible. Indeed, research has shown that separation is a significant risk factor for femicide, as “women are at the greatest risk of lethal violence within the first several months following their separation” (Dawson, Sutton, Carrigan, and Grand’Maison 2018: 40). Megan was wary about enforced child support payments “because it comes back to me, he hunts me down, he harasses me, he assaults me because ‘I’ took him to court; in reality it wasn’ t me !” Becoming emotional, Megan said, “Had OW forced me to go after my ex for child suppor t, he probably would have killed me.” While child support may be a reasonable request under normal circumstances, in cases of violence and abuse, children could be used to furth er harass or manipulate women. Megan noted, “It’s hard … watching all of the women that I work with that are forced to provide the information they have about their exes only for OW to go after them.… But it’s the women who are accused of being the one that went after them, not welfare.” Danielle also recalled her own horrific experience when her ex-partner was notified about child support payments; he was outraged and took it out on Danielle, even though she wanted nothing to do with the court order and pleaded with the FRO t o drop the case . Kate, Danielle’ s mother , was worried for her daughter ’s safety: W e also know he’s already said, “You’re not getting it, fuck you.” … He’s madder than hell … because his last paycheque from his boss was taken away from him because of housing and FRO . Well, we didn’ t know anything about it, because she was getting razzed by welfare to give the information. Well, she knew damn well if she started that little firecracker , it was going to blow — and it has blown! Even in cases where abuse is proven and restraining orders issued, pursuit of child support may continue. As Barb said, “I heard of cases where the mothers have actually gotten restraining orders against their exes and welfare still goes after them for support.” While OW and the FRO do not force women to communicate with their ex-partners directly, they are expected to comply with investigations, which, as has been shown, can trigger more violence for some women with histories of abuse. The policy has softened since I did the interviews and no longer claws back recipients’ benefits, yet it was clear that the policy did not work for them, made survivors feel unsafe, and in some cases was traumatizing. A number of women even endured additional abuse from their caseworkers. The collaboration between OW and the FRO, including data sharing and human surveillance, is another tier of the welfare surveillance apparatus that discounts the impacts of a neoliberal cost-cutting “diversion” policy on the lives of low-income women. THE C HILDREN ’ S A ID S OCIETY The focus of this book is on single mother ’s experiences of welfare surveilla nce with Ontario Works; however , during my interviews, it was clear that their experiences were also shaped by how OW’s surveillance triggered other investigations and that these governing systems and enforcement were highly interconnected. Their very status as single mothers on social assistance increased their risk of being reported to child welfare, the welfare fraud hotlines, or both. They felt entangled in webs of survei llance that permeated their communities, whereby strangers and neighbours felt entitled to report “suspicio us” behaviour and activities. The following section illustrates how community surveillance included reports to child welfare, known as the Children’ s Aid Society in Ontario. Founded by J.J. Kelso, the first Children’ s Aid Society was formed in Toronto in 1891 as a partially government funded agency that had “the legal power to remove children from their homes, supervise and manage children in municipal ‘shelters’ and collect money from municipalities to cover the maintenance costs for wards. Societies at this time gained the status and prerogatives of lega l guardians” ( CRCVC 2006: 5; OACAS n.d.). The Ontario Association of Children’ s Aid Societies ( OACAS ) was establishe d in 1912, with sixty CAS organizations founded across Ontario between 1891 and 1912. By 1984, in accordance with the Child and Fami ly Services Act , the CAS w as transform ed from a semi-professional, volunteer -run organization into a professional agency largely publicly funded and overseen by the MCCSS . The CAS ’s official mission is “protecting children from physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect … keeping children safe, helping parents build healthy families and providing safe, nurturing environments for young people” (Family and Children’ s Services of Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington 2015). To do this, it uses reports and anonymous tips of child abuse and neglect from family, neighbours, schools, landlords, police, teachers, OW caseworkers, therapists, and counsellors. While I am not contesting the importance of protecting vulnerable children, my research has demonstrated that the intrusion of the CAS in the lives of low- income families — particula rly those headed by single mothers, racialized women, and Indigenous women — was damaging and traumatizing to families and must be located in the historical context of the settler -colonial state and how social work has developed. There are compelling similarities between Ontario’s child welfare and social assistance as well as how these programs evolved into the institutions they are today — surveillance and the moral regulation of poor single mothers were and continue to be central preoccupations. Little’s (1998) research documented these historical linkages, demonstrating how the CAS had a vested interest in the early development of the Ontario Mothers’ Allowance. The CAS positioned itself as “the authority” on welfare and moth ering. At the time, they were adamantly against mothers working outside the home, arguing that the children of working moms would become “delinquents.” And they were the first to advocate strict surveillance of single mothers, as such monitoring was perceived as vital to “helping” single mothers become “good mothers,” and social agencies, small businesses, and even citizens were called upon to help “supervise” lone mothers. Tracing the impacts of child welfare reforms in Ontario in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, which coincided with punitive welfare reforms and cuts to single mothers’ social assistance, Karen Swift and Henry Parada (2004: 2) discovered that the rapid policy changes “produced a high level of surveillance and intrus ion into the lives of clients of the system,” which “disproportionately affects poor families in destructive ways and is helping to reproduce the conditions for further harm.” As single mothers on social assistance faced the harshest cuts to their benefits and programs to help them, which drove them even deeper into poverty , they simultaneously experienced heightened surveillance and child welfare investigations. The expanded definition of neglect under the Child and Family Services Act amendments in 2000 was worrisome as the “neglect is notoriously difficult to distinguish from poverty .” As well, under the Act, the duty to report was broadened, which meant a 22 percent increase in reports and investigations between 1999 and 2003 (Swift and Parada 2004: 1 1, 13). There is a great deal of research showing that the primary reason for the overrepresentation of low-income children in child welfare is due to poverty (Antwi-Boasiako et al. 2020; Morris et al. 2018; Nadan, Spilsbury , and Korbin 2015; Ontario Human Rights Commission 2018; Raissian and Bullinger 2017; Sw ift and Parada 2004). Howeve r, current child welfare practices tend to conflate poverty with neglect. Poverty alone does not mean that children are not loved, safe, or cared for . But poverty does make it challenging for parents to meet certain needs, such as adequate food and shelter . As we know , social assistance rates in Ontario fall far below the market basket measure, yet society blames low-income families rather than the state for not providing sufficient benefits. Risk assessments used by social workers to measure abuse and neglect have been criticized as they “do not account for structural inequalities, such as racial discrimination, that may affect a child’ s well-bei ng” (Ontario Human Rights Commission 2017). Indeed, structural factors such as poverty , labour market disparities, and financial challenges linked to poverty , which are compounded by systemic racism and patriarchy , are factors that are not acknowledged. A UK study found that social workers “rarely consider the root causes of family troubles and the role socio-economic hardships played in these” and that “various system pressures, such as caseloads, timescales and budget cuts, undermined social workers’ attempts to engage with the roots of family troubles” (Morris et al. 2018: 367). Instead individual families are perceived as the “risk” and poverty is perceived as a form of neglect. Arguably , child welfare epitomizes the “presumption that poverty and bad parenting are inextricably linked” (Caragata 2008: 68). New research shows the association between poverty , income levels, and child welfare reporting. For instance, a 2017 study in the United States followed how changes to a state’ s minimum wage impacted child maltreatment rates and found that even small increases resulted in statistically significant reductions in reports of child maltreatment (Raissian and Bullinger 2017). Another reason that poor families are disproportionately represented in child welfare reports and apprehension is due to increased surveillance of their lives; this is particularly the case, as we will see, for single mothers. The race and ethnicity of poor families is another factor, as discrimination, bias, and stereotyping of racialized families have been prove n to result in more mandatory and community reporting to child welfare authorities (Antwi-Boasiako et al. 2020). This can be understood as “racial disproportionality ,” which refers to either the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of different racial groups in child welfare (Nadan, Spilsbury , and Korbin 2015: 42). While child welfare investigations for child maltreatment increased for all families between 1993 and 2013 in Ontario, it doubled for white families and increased fourfold for Black families (Antwi- Boasiako et al. 2020). This disparity is due to various factors: discriminatory mandatory and community reporting of Black families to child welfare based on racist stereotypes, caseworker biases in the investigations, prejudices and assumptions in caseworker assessments, Eurocentric child welfare policies that lack cultural competencies, harsher standards for Black families, and higher levels of poverty . Of course, this is also tied to the wider sociopolitical context of white suprema cy, colonization, slavery, labour market discrimination, immigration and precarious status, criminalization, and systemic racism. In 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission issued a public inquiry to examine the disproportionate admission of Black and Indigenous children into the child welfare system. Child welfare policies were found to have differing outcomes for racialized families: Black children are 2.2 times more likely and Indigenous children 2.6 times more likely to end up in state care in comparison to non-racialized children (Ontario Human Rights Commission 2018). Indigenous families have long been subject to discriminatory and harmful child welfare practices and racial disproportionality . In a 2010 report, around the time of my study , the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (2010: 2) noted, “Most alarming is that large numbers of Indigenous children receive the most intensive child welfare intervention: removal from the home and placement in care. These apprehens ions appear to be increasing, at least for First Nations children.” Canada removes Indigenous children at the highest rate of any country in the Global North (Kassam 2017 ). Child welfare is a powerful regulator of Indigenous families in Canada and has been described as a “humanitarian crisis” and “reminiscent of the residential school system” by then-Indigenous Services minister Jane Philpott (Barrera 2017). The 2016 Census showed that Indigenous children made up 7 percent of the overall population in Canada but they made up more than half of the foster children in the country . Experiences with the CAS Among the women I interviewed, all of them had at some point interacted with child welfare, and eight of them (44 percent) had faced threats from the CAS to rem ove their children from the home, went through intrusive home visits, or attended mandatory CAS p arenti ng prog rams. I was told that parenting programs were often a condition to maintain their welfare benefits as well as keep custody of their children. There were a variety of reasons that the CAS was cal led. Emm a encountered the CAS because some behavioural issues with one of her children were reported by a community support worker. The CAS became involved with Danielle and Megan when they reported an ex-husband to the authorities for domestic abuse. Many were the result of anonymous reports from neighbours or other community members. Not all encounters were negative, though — Barb, for instance, had a positive relationship with the CAS, which helped protect her from her abusive ex-partner: “I’ve got the police, housing, and the CAS a ll on my side and helping me out.… The CAS actually threatened him, so … it’s good to know that you do have service s on your side that will help out.” Danielle enrolled in parenting classes voluntarily . She found them helpful and appreciated the insights that other mothers shared. However , she also saw problems because classes were structured to include both voluntary and non- voluntary members, and she felt that the mothers who were forced to attend were often disruptive: I’m there [voluntarily] and I en joy being there, but some days they [other moms] are imm ature … every single one was forced by the CAS to be there.… So that makes it hard.… They’re trapped … I know maybe their life’s hard or whatever they’re going through, that’s their business. But I’m there because I want to be, to get advice, you know. Nonetheless, for the most part, single mothers did not have positive encounters and many were left feeling as though they had little power or autonomy . T hey felt incredibly judged and found their inte ractions stressful, as anything and everything was up for scrutiny . By far, the biggest concern they shared was being reported to a range of civil, legal, community , and government bodies, which, they were concerned, could lead to losing custody of their children. For example, they felt monitored by school authorities that singled out their children because they were from a low-income family. Mothers feared schools reporting them to welfare and the CAS . Megan often saw this with her own clients at women’ s shelters: As a single parent when you don’t have the financial means to provide for your children then you have CAS breathing down your back because you can’t afford to send a lunch to school with them. So the school calls and says, you know , “This kid came to school three times in a week and didn’ t have a lunch.” Community surveillance was particularly troubling for those living in social housing, who fear their neighbours will call CAS , by-law enforcement, the police, or the welfare fraud hotlines if there is any ill feeling between them. Lauren had the CAS sho w up at her home because of an anonymous call from a neighbour , who reported that she was using drugs: Children’s Aid came to my house. [They said] “We got a complaint … that you were smoking marijuana around your child.” Are you serious? I slammed the door in their face. Then they came back, I le t them in — I opened up all my cupboards, I opened up my fridge, and then they asked my son questions. And then I said, “Are you done?” [and] she said, “Miss, we’re sorry, we’re going to shut the case,” and I said, “Get the fuck out.” Overall, single mothers’ encounters with child welfare were, with one exception, experienced as invasive, negative, and unwanted. Emma felt extremely uncomfortable with the home visits : I’m going to have some lady come and sit on my chair and talk to me for two to three hours. What’s she going to say about me, you know? What’s she going to say about how I’m raising my two [childre n]?… I didn’ t know these people and how they work. My neighbours said, “Oh they’re great people.” I just didn’t trust it — no, I don’ t want some lady stranger in my home. I just didn’ t want it. Clearly, Emma felt uneasy about the home visits and scrutiny . However , she had no say in the matter and had to under go parenting classes and home visits to maintain custody of her children as a result of the report to child welfare. Single mothers likewise had to worry about how various social services and policing bodies are known to cooperate and share information for investigat ions in surveillance mashups. A call to a hotline results in more authorities intervening in marginalized women’ s lives, putting them at risk for criminalization and child apprehension . When the police are called to a domestic dispute and there are children present, it is mandatory for the police to inform the CAS , who then appoint a caseworker to investigate. The concern is that the domestic abuse is impacting the child’ s well-being and safety , even if the moth er is doing her best to protect the child. One of the greatest anxieties among the women I interviewed for this study pertained to the power of the CAS to remove children from the home and place them in state care. INDIGENOUS M OTHERS , S URVEILLANCE , AND C HILD WELF ARE To understand welfare surveillance in the lives of Indigenous women, we must situate the analysis in the context of a settler – colonial, patriarchal state that has systemically taken Indigenous children from their families in what has been called a cultura l genocide and a form of structural violence (Palmater 2014; MMIWG 20 19). Welfare surveillance, as a regulatory function of the neoliberal state, is deeply intertwined with histories of col onialism and white supremacy that oppress Indigenous women. Testimonies at the MMIWG Inquiry , including from Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Cana da, linked missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls ( MMIWG ) to chil d welfare policies and practices that put Indigenous women and girls at greater risk for violence (Taylor 2018 ). The Inquiry highlighted the fact that Indigenous women face multiple and overlapping forms of structural violence: colonialism itself, as well as cultural and institutional violence, all deeply rooted in Canada’ s settler -colonial history (MMIWG 2019). Structural violence “can be understood as the gap between a person’ s or a community’ s potential well-being and their actual well-being, when that difference is avoidable. These gaps are due to injustices, inequalities, and other forms of violence embedded in everyday life that privileges some people to the detriment of others” ( MMIWG 2019: 77). Federal social policy has subjected Indigenous women to systemic violence through forced sterilization, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and ongoing child welfare practices. The state’s concern with regulating Indigenous women’s reproduction and sexuality precedes the welfare state and child welfare (Palmater 2014; Smith 2005). As Pamela Palmater (2014: 28, 31), Mi’kmaw lawyer and activist, argues, the goal of colonial policies was to erase and eradicate Indigenous Peoples, which she calls a “legislative extinction trend” of ongoing genocide. Indigenous Peoples were seen as a “menace” to the colonial project and needed to be contained (in the reserve system), assimilated (residential schools), and erased (through the Indian Act , forced sterilization, etc.). Indigenous women have experienced significant state-enforced regulation of their reproduction since early colonization, which was formalized under sterilization laws in provinces such as British Colombia and Alberta. Specifically , the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act, 1928 legaliz ed consensual and compulsory sterilization of more than 3,000 “unfit” individuals between 1928 and 1972. Indigenous women were disproportionately represented in the ranks of the sterilized as authorities considered them to be “mentally defective” and “incapable of intelligent parenthood” (Boyer 2006; Stote 2015). This was often done without their knowledge or consent. Even though the Indigenous population in Alberta during the Sterilization Act hovered at 2–3 percent, 6 percent of those sterilized were Indigenous. Racially “othering” them as “defective” and “incapabl e” dehumanized Indigenous women and justified their sterilization and later the removal of their children from their custody . Since 1912, child welfare authorities and social workers, even with the “best of intentions,” have perpetuated racist and sexist stereotypes about Indigenous mothers to justify the removal of Indigenous children from their homes and enforce a po licy of assimilation: “The actions of child welfare workers destabilized traditional First Nations culture, quickly stereotyping Aboriginal women as unfit mothers and living off the land as uncivilized … The acceptable home criteria reflected a nuclear , middle class lifestyle” (Alston-O’Connor 2010: n.p.). Consequently , this discrimination has “undermine[d] Indigenous mothers’ status as competent mothers” (Baines and Freeman 2011: 69). Such racist stereotypes have deep roots in Canadian heteropatriarchal colonial history: early colonizers’ negative discourses about Indigenous women as deviant and incompetent mothers became deeply embedded in state interventions, institutions, and social policy . “They were cast as the complete opposite of the idealized white woman, as agents of the destruction of the moral health of the new non-A boriginal community” (Carter 2008: 152). Canadian residential schools were an overt attempt by the settler -colonial state to assimilate, regulate, and control Indigenous Peoples, starting with the often forced removal of their children. Government funded and led by the Christian churches, over 130 residential schools opened across Turtle Island with 150,000 children, mostly First Nations but also Métis and Inuit, forced to live in them ( TRC 2015). From 1920 to 1951 , the Canadian government formally enforced mandatory attendance for First Nations children (Assembly of First Nations 1994). The widely documented horrors of these schools included all forms of abuse (physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, medical, spiritual), poor living conditions, and inadequate nutrition (Assembly of First Nations 1994; Partridge 2010; Palmater 2014; TRC 201 5). It is estimated that 40 percent of children who attended these schools did not live to return home to their families (Bryce 1922). In May 2021, the remains of 215 children were found at the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Tk’emlúps te Secwépem c First Nation (Dickson and Watson 2021). More discoveries of over a thousand unmarked children’s graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have ignited protest from Indigenou s communities and settler -allies. For years, Indigenous communities have known of the missing and undocumented deaths of thousands of Indigenous children at the hands of residential school authorities. However, it has been more than five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its repor t on residential schools ( TRC 2015), yet real action has not been taken by the federal government to address the Calls to Action. Indigenous leaders and communities are calling for the federal government to search all residential school sites, return the children home, and hold those responsible for their deaths accountable. The ongoing impacts of residential schools are undeniable, as survivors who returned to their families were traumatized by the cultural genocide they endured; intergenerational trauma is still a deep wound for Indige nous communities (Palmater 2014; Partridge 2010; TRC 2015). Indigenous children were perceived as “wards” of the state and due to the impoverishment and issues facing reserves — which were a direct result of colonial policy and the Indian Act — social workers and authoritie s of the time believed the best solution was once again to remove the children from the home and place them in non-Indigenous foster care. Linking early colonial eugenics policies to contemporary reproductive rights, the Canadian child welfare system has been criticized as “the new agent of assimilation and colonization” (Alston-O’Connor 2010: n.p.; Baines and Freeman 2011; Carter 2008; Emberley 2001; Fournier and Crey 1997; Jaimes-Guerrero 2003 ; Lawrence 2004, 2008; Palmate r 2014; Smith 1999; Trocmé, Knoke, and Blackstock 2004). While most Canadians are familiar with residential schools, the Sixties Scoop is less widely known, although it included the forced removal of more than 20,000 Indigenous children from their families between 1960 and 1980 and their placement in foster homes or adopted permanently into non-Indigenous families (Fournier and Crey 1997). This form of assimilation disconnected Indigenous children from their families of origin, culture, language, and community , and many are still unable to find their parents and are denied status because they have no “proof” of their lineage (Bennett, Blackstock, and De La Ronde 2005; Palmater 2014). The impact of the Sixties Scoop has been devast ating and reminds us of the harmful colonial practices for the “good” and “welfare” of Indigenous Peoples that the Canadian state continues to impose. In addi tion to discouraging and preventing Indigenous women from having children, authorities have long scrutinized the parenting abilities of Indigenous mothers. The result has been a disproportionate number of Indigenous children in state care. Today , it is estimated that there are more Indigenous children living in out-of-home care than during the eras of residential s chools and Sixties Scoop combined (Blackstock 2007; Fournier and Crey 1997; Lawrence 2004; Trocmé et al. 2004). As of the 2016 Census, over half (52 percent) of children in foster care were Indigenous, even though they only account for 7 percent of the population (Government of Canada 2020). Social assistance and child welfare agencies are intertwined in regulating and disciplining poor, racialized, “unfit,” and “deviant” mothers. Experiences with Child W elfare and the CAS The two Indigenous mothers I interviewed were negatively impacted by child welfare agencies and felt that their personal lives and homes were subject to regular intrusions that questioned their ability and right to mother . They were acutely cognizant of the CAS ’s rules and regulations in ways that the non-Indigenous women I interviewed were not. They regularly watched in horror as their families’, neighbours’, and friends’ children were removed from their homes and placed in state care. One of the women had one of her children removed from the home, and the other found her experience with the CAS so painful that she could barely verbalize what had happened to her and her children and asked that I not include the specifics here. These stories were difficult and heartbreaking. Emma and Julia both believed that child welfare targets Indigenous families. As Julia witnessed, “Being Native is even worse … There’s some people that they just seem to harass, like my friend … has an eleven-year -old daughter and she is a good mom but now , because of a circumstance and her boyfriend’ s Native, boom, she has the CAS involved.” In her experience simply “being Native” is enough to trigger an investigation and possible loss of custody of one’ s child. Emma’s encounters with the CAS left her feeling demoralized and unworthy of mothering her own children. She had internalized that she was a bad mother and came to believe that her son might be better off in a middle-class, non- Indigenous foster home, where she assumed he could receive more middle-class material things: The CAS kno w when they walk into your home and the instant they know you are poor , that’ s it, that’ s when they start digging. Ya, let’ s take that child out of the home and let’s place him in a group home or foster home, ’cause they’ll get whatever they want.… And they are government agents and you — you can’t say nothing. You can’ t go after their jobs, ’cause you know what they’ll say , “You’re poor , you’re lower class, get out of here.” Emma noted that during one of the visits from child welfare, the worker did not explain the rules and legalities concerning the remo val of her children, which exemplifies the power of the CAS . She was convi nced that her worker was breaking the rules by trying to remove her youngest son from her home when the warrant specified her older son and stated the “child” (not “children”). Emma was unsure how to challenge the worker and was worried that if she did it would make her situation even worse: The CAS visit was over behavioural issues with my oldest boy. She comes in and sweeps up my young boy because of a lack of appointments. She said I was ignoring his needs for appointments for spee ch therapy . But at the time I did n’t think he needed it because kids have their own developmental times and delays.… If he wasn’ t talking before he hits school, alright let’ s start looking into it. In this case, Emma’ s knowledge as a mother who is with her child everyday was complete ly ignored as child welfare authorities assumed that she was unfit because her son was not going to speech therapy sessions. Emma was very upset by these exchanges with the CAS w orker , who entered her home and made moral judgments about her as a mother and commented on things she could be doing differently . Recalling this incident, her voice shook and she was visibly angry; yet her anger at the system and her desire to confront authorities was consumed and tempered by the fear of losing her son: I thi nk when they come into your home, you are definitely judged.… What do you have in your home for your children? If you don’ t have it they’re all over you — you don’ t have flat screen TVs and nice clothing on their backs, okay you’re poor. Let’ s start picking. We know you’re on welfa re, let’s start picking away. Let’ s go and see wha t you got in your cupboards. Let’s see what your kids got up in the bedroom…. That’s when they start [digging]. Indigenous mothers in particular felt denied the right to autonomously parent their children and make decisions about their own children’ s lives. Navigating child welfare and making formal appeals was difficult and some of the communities I visited lacked community supports (legal aid, advocates, resources, friendship centres, culturally safe and appropriate supports, etc.) to help these women. The lack of child welfare transparency was especially difficult. Julia’s case information was kept from her and not properly explained. When she made inquiries to find out about the status of her case and children, she got “different answers.” She did not appeal her case because “there is no legal a id … the number I keep phoning … nobody answers. I left them a message three weeks ago just to see if they would cover [my case] … they probably won’t because my case is not open [anymore].” Julia was discouraged, and organizations that she could turn to for support, such as the legal aid clinic, were understaf fed and downsizing. Emma also felt that her CAS worker did not give her information about resources that would have been helpful to her situation: “She never tried to steer me in any kind of directions, or any help, or agencies. Nothing. I was left all alone and had to deal with it all by myself. And only now I’m starting to come to grips and terms, and understanding what is going on because now I have people I can talk to.” It is easy to see why these women felt trapped in a system designed to punish rather than support their needs. CONCLUSION This chapter ’s exploration of single mothers’ encounters with regulatory bodies outside of social assistance, with the Family Responsibility Office, and with child welfare more generally , has revealed the many levels of surveillance, regulation, and control exercised by governing bodies intended to “help” them. They were tied up in the welfare surveillance apparatus where one tip, investigation, or report could set into motion an ever broadening web of “experts” and authorities to manage and regulate them. Depending on their case and if there were reports of domestic violence, this involved family law, police, Ontario Works, the FRO , and the CAS . There was little room for women to self-advocate or cha llenge the FRO or CAS , as both were mandated by law to enforce legislation and policies that, as we have seen, may cause harm in the lives of low-income single mothers. It is not surpri sing why so many who have been affected by domestic violence, especially racialized women, do not report to the police, as the police are often a source of harm and violence in their communities (Balfour and Comack 2004; Maynard 2017). The intersection of poverty , single parenthood , and child welfare was a constant reminde r to the women I interviewed that any part of their lives could be questioned at any time. The stigma and pain they carried was palatable in the interviews, where they revealed the shame and guilt they held as authorities threatened or enacted the apprehension of their children from their care. Systemic racism and centuries of colonialism have shaped the surveillance experiences of Indigenous and Black mothers. Because social services are commonly seen as “helping” low-income people — which, as we have seen, has incredibly devastating outcomes for poor women — and because single mothers are dependent on these relationships for their survival , it is incredibly difficult for them to challe nge abusive or discriminatory policies or complain about the behaviour of certain agencies and staff. Furthermore, challenging “helping” services portrays welfare mothers as ungrateful — they are supposed to be thankful that they are getting anything (and some mothers did feel guilty for accessing the services in the first place). Thus, the intense surveillance mashups enacted by these governing bodies, the injustices and errors they make, and the suffering they cause remain lar gely uncontested and unpublicized. While their lives were open to public scrutiny , much of their suffering was private, hidden, and unknown. Fortunately , there has been some progress on reconciling the harms perpetrated by Canada’ s child welfare policies. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( TRC ) of Can ada (2015) outlined five Calls to Action to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system: educate social workers on the history and impacts of residential schools; gather data on the apprehension of Indigenous versus non-Indigenous children and the reasons each were removed from the home; ensure that Indigenous children are placed in care that is culturally appropriate; and develop culturally appropriate family parenting programs for Indigenous families. Only recently , as a result of the TRC Cal ls to Action , have we seen any state acknowledgment (yet little in the way of action) of this systemic targeting of Indigenous children in child apprehension and efforts to remedy the harm done (Child Welfare League of Canada 2019). Following the TRC , in 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ( CHRT ) respon ded to a complaint launched by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations claiming that Indian and Northern Affairs ( INAC ) (now Crown- Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada), the provision of First Nations Child and Family Services ( FNCFS ), and the enactment of Jordan’s Principle were inequitable and subsequently discriminatory against First Nations children (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal 2016). The CHRT ord ered that INAC address the discriminatory practices: 1) cease its discriminatory practices regarding the FNCFS Program; 2) reform the FNCFS Pro gram; 3) cease applying the narrow definition of Jordan’ s Principle; and 4 ) take measures to immediately implement the full meaning and scope of Jordan’ s Principle. Additionally , in 2019, the CHRT ordered Canada to pay compensat ion to First Nations children, youth, and families who were wrongfully removed (for reasons other than physical, sexual, or psychological abuse) from the home and placed in state care before January 2006 ( APTN 2019). On January 1, 2020, the governme nt of Canada enacted the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Childr en, Youth and Families to allow Indigenous Peoples to exercise jurisdiction over family serv ices, develop national principles, implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and empower Indigenous people to provide their own solutions for their families and children (Government of Canada 2020). While there is still much work to be done to undo the devastating and systemic harm caused by the settler -colonial state, there is evidence that some progress, albeit slow , is being made. 5: S ocia l W ork ers, F in an cia l A dvis o rs, o r A uth orit a ria n O verse ers? C ASEWORKERS ’ R EFLECTIONS ON W ELFARE SUR VEILLANCE Surveillance is not a mere glance exchanged between equals — it is both an expre ssion and instrument of power. (Gilliom 2001: 3) I first learned of the challenges facing Ontario Works caseworkers at a Social Assistance Review consultation in 2011. The government of Ontario had commissioned one of the largest revie ws of social assistance in over twenty years. The process involved “public consultations” and invited OW offices, including managers and caseworkers, to submit recommendations. By including the public, caseworkers, community workers, and recipients of social assistance, the Social Assistance Review gave the impression of a democratic and inclusive process, something unprecedented in the neoliberal era. Somehow I managed to get into one of the consultations held in Kingston and found myself sitting at a table with OW caseworkers, addictions workers, and legal aid representatives. For the most part, I was a silent observer , but at one point, I commented that their statements regarding how the system takes away their ability to be social workers surprised me. A few of them laughed and responded that according to management, they are not considered “social workers but financial advisors.” I asked them to elaborate on how that made them feel, and they remarked that their discretion and agency had been reduced because of bureaucracy , eligibility criteria, excessive rules, data input, and upper management restricting their autonomy . This stuck with me as I contin ued my field work, specifically how the hegemonic neoliberal and new public management ethos of the finan cial bottom line had permeated the manage ment of social assistance in Ontario to the point where social work itself was reduced to financial assessments and compliance enforcement. The perspective s of caseworkers working in welfare offices are under -resear ched in Canadian welfare scholarship. Most Canadian studies of social assistance focus on the policy and legal implications of welfare (top-down policy implementation and governance) or the experiences of those who are oppressed by welfare policies (Caragata 2008; Lightman, Mitchell, and Herd 2003, 2004; Little 2006; Mirchandani and Chan 2007; Mosher and Hermer 2005; Mosher et al. 2004; Power 2005). Among researchers who have interviewed caseworkers, they have highligh ted caseworkers’ impressions of and experiences with neoliberal welfare transformations (Baines 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2018; Dominelli and Hoogvelt 1996; Dominelli 1997, 1999; Meagher and Parton 2004; White 2006), but none have placed surveillance work or the implementation of surveillance technologies at the heart of their analysis. As well, aside from Gilliom and Eubanks, surveillance studies has also largely ignored the implications of those whose job it is to surveil, missing an important contribution in understanding the everyday aspects of surveillance (Smith 2012). The following pages explore how caseworkers are situated in the welfare surveillance apparatus. Caseworkers embody surveillance, which is shaped by the sociocultural and political values of society and their workplaces. The process of surveilling is not neutral and detached; it is a constant negotiation and process. As Smith (2012: 110) critically points out, surveillance workers “both embody and then effectively reify dominant cultural values, stereotypes and goals in their classificatory arrangement of social reality … the role of subjectivity in orientating the gaze and in the categorization and sorting of social groups according to their ascribed identities, motivations and propensity to consume.” My research has found that the responses by frontline caseworkers to the introduction of new surveillance technologies within OW has been multifaceted and complex. They reflected on neoliberal changes to their work, the expansion of workplace surveillance and how this has limited their capacity to actually help recipients and do their jobs. Perhaps most profoundly , neoliberal transformations have imprisoned them in a panopticon within a panopticon — caseworkers are compelled to surveil while being surveilled. Caseworkers also shared what welfare surveillance meant in the context of their everyday work and the wider neoliberal welfare state. It was clear that their workplace challenges — including constant change, inflexible technology and policy , reduced autonomy , and alienation — had numerous negative impacts on their job satisfaction and mental health. INTER VIEWING F RONTLINE C ASEWORKERS My supervisor cautioned me that I would run into difficulties trying to access caseworkers for interviews, and she could not have been more accurate. Due to the highly bureaucratic structure of OW and rigorous gatekeeping, there were few opportunities for me to meet with caseworkers without first gaining management’s approval. This speaks to the challenges of going to the source of power and how those in positions of power can circumvent engagement with critical questions that unearth the very practices that may reproduce inequality in society. It was difficult to get through to management. In Kingston, management full out refused to answer my calls about the study and even prohibited some caseworkers from participating in interviews (one met with me regardless and one was able to finally convince her manager she could participate). At the Toronto office, only after I had cold-called several caseworkers and met with a gatekeeper , who convinced management, was I able to actually meet with management to discuss the study . In some ways, it is surprising that I was granted any access. This gatekeeping significantly impacted the sample of my study and affected my data collection, as management hand selected the caseworkers I wo uld speak to. Obviously my results would have been different had I been given the opportunity to connect with a variety of workers who could have voluntarily and without being monitored (or feeling as though they were) shared their perspectives. There were several ways that management oversaw my interactions with potential interviewees: reviewing my interview questions, preventing specific workers from participating, hand selecting participants, and coaching these participants prior to the interviews. M anagement justified preparing the interviewees as a “preventative measure” to ensure that Ontario Works was “positively” portrayed in the study . O ne interviewee confirmed that management gave them specific instructions on what topics were allowed to be discussed and what should be avoided, warning that the research project was potentially “corrosive” to the image of OW. In the end, seven out of the nine interviewees were hand selected by management. Management had clearly primed caseworkers I spoke with and influenced the responses to my questions, which they had asked for in advance. The workers were acutely aware of what they were saying, and self- surveilled their responses. “It’s obviously interesting what you’re doing … if we can help and contribute to that, I think that’ s great. I do n’t think that I’ve said anything that would get me in trouble” [laugh] (Joanne). In total, I inter viewed nine caseworkers in three cities in Ontario — two medium-sized cities (Kingston and Peterborough) and a large urban centre (Toronto). The participants had worked at OW for an average of seventeen years, ranging from a minimum of nine years to a maximum of twenty-eight years. Almost half (four of the nine participants) had been e mploy ed as caseworkers during the Conservative government’ s welfare reforms in the 1990s and vividly recalled the neoliberal modernization project that initiated the current welfare surveillance apparatus. Six of the interviewees were women and three were men, which is consistent with the gender demogra phics of community social service workers (Unit 4212 under the national occupational classification), at 23 percent male and 77 percent female (HR Council 2016). All of the caseworkers interviewed were white. One third of the caseworkers I interviewed had lived experiences of poverty , one individual had been on social assistance, and two others came from single-mother households that at times had relied on welfare to ma ke ends meet. Six were frontline caseworkers, two were employment counsellors, and one was a case manager . One of the caseworkers was on union leave to work for CUPE a nd spoke to her experiences as both a caseworker and a union activist. I interviewed three types of workers for this study. Caseworkers, who are frontli ne and work directly with recipients and have a wide range of responsibilities, primarily around managin g caseloads and ensuring that recipient files are up to date. Generally , their daily tasks include processing applications, reviewing files for risk assessments, financial surveillance, conducting one-on-one meetings, supporting recipients on meeting their goals, and following up on participation agreements (PA). They have high caseloads, ranging from 150 to 200 case files. One of the frontline workers with whom I spoke worked for the CVP unit. Employment counsellors typically have lower caseloads than caseworkers and work more one-on-one with recipients. They support recipients on their workfare assignments and any other activities outlined in the PA. They coach recipients in job searching , up grading and schooling, and identifying career goals. They do less financial surveillance and fewer risk assessments than caseworkers. Finally, case managers oversee the work of frontline caseworkers and employment counsellors, approve discretionary benefits, ensure that legislation and directives are being followed, support caseworkers in making decisions on difficult files, collect statistics on their team’ s ef ficiencies, and enforce targets and quotas. While surveillance (non-compliance) was obviously a central focus of their work and duties, it was not all they did. Unfortunately , I was not granted access to interview any workers from the fraud unit, which would have resulted in different insights on the role of surveillance and regulation in Ontario Works. Contextualizing Subjectivities of Caseworkers The interview data was incredibly rich and highlighted a variety of persp ectives on surveillance and how caseworkers understood, resisted, experienced, and performed surveillance. Surveillance was an active process that involved many layers of human-techn ology interactio n. After reviewing the data, several key themes emerged. I draw on a feminist Foucauldian analysis of neoliberal subjectivity to unpack the common discourses that caseworkers used to understand and negotiate their work (Thomas and Davies 2005). Approaching the analysis this way provided a more nuanced account of caseworkers’ experiences by exploring both subjective identity construction (micro) and larger systemic factors (macro) that shape neoliberal government workplaces, policies, surveillance, and regulation. In my research, two central subjectivities emerged from the interview data: the social work ethic of care and the authoritarian overseer. These different, albeit overlapping, subjectivities help to explain the varied responses of caseworkers, how they understood their work, and what they thought of surveillance. Social work and frontline casework remains highly feminized in Canada (Baines 2018; Berg and Barry 2008 ; Moffatt 2001; Moyser 2017). However , “management and managerial careers within social work remain highly gendered with masculinist discursive practices, and social expectations prevailing” (Berg and Barry 2008: 115). During my field work, I witnessed a clear gende red division of labour among the gatekeepers, interviewees, and managers who I came into contact with, as men were predominantly in positions of senior management. At the frontline level, women continue to be relegated to lower salaries and positions and receive far fewer opportunities for promotion and management positions than their male counterparts (Moyser 2017 ; Ber g and Barry 2008). For instance, the HR Council highlighted a pay discrepancy of 14 percent between female and male workers (HR Council 2016). For those women lucky enough to be promoted to administrative positions, the gender income gap remains. These persistent gender inequalities coincided with a devaluation of the “ethics of care,” especially with the neoliberal turn in welfare policy and administration. This was evident in the discourses caseworkers drew upon to describe their labour as well as in how they perceived “right” and “wrong” approaches to casework and how things were changing. The “ethics of care” was brought forth by maternal feminists (early first- wave feminists), who typically drew on discourses of dome sticity and mothering to make claims on the state based on this particular positioning of women as mothers and caregivers as their critical role in society (Baines 1991). As the profession of social work was establishing in the 1920s and 1930s, maternal feminists built on an ethics of care discourse to justify women’ s entry into what was then a male-dominated profession. Evoking then-domi nant notions of gender roles, such as women as “natural” caregivers, they rationalized women’ s entry into the public sphere. Baines (1991: 40) explains that “women who moved into the public sphere to extend their caring mission believed that if poor women and children were to be cared about, it was their duty to see that they were cared for.” This framing was pivotal for women to gain access to political participation, jobs, and professional development. While the ethics of care within social work overtly essential izes gender differences, it was also distinctly classed and racialized: white middle-class women’s “natural” caregiving abilities, and lower -class women’ s dependency and need to be “tak en care of.” It was this reification of gender roles and classism that allowed women to take paid professional jobs outside the house, jobs that upper – and middle-class women had previously performed in a volunteer capacity (Baines 1991; Little 1998). Some social work scholars have argued that the rise of managerialism and neoliberalism has contributed to a decline in the ethics of care because “new management techniques require social workers to take a more instrumental and impersonal approach to their work, and many perceive that their interaction with service users is little more than labour in the service of economy and efficiency” (Meagher and Parton 2004: 11). The “authorita rian overseer” subjectivity encapsulates the shift to the efficient and detached surveillance worker. It relates to Gilliom’ s (2001: 42, 3) idea of “authoritarian surveillance,” which he describes as “a form of knowing which discounts, excludes, and objectifies the subjects of its gaze.” As well, he frames welfare and welfare caseworkers as “overseers” of the poor , which is an explicit exercise of power involving “enforcing rules and norms by observing and recording acts of compliance and deviance.” I combined these concepts to explain caseworkers who were strictly committed to upholding the rules and keeping recipients “in line.” As well, Robyn Thomas and Annette Davies (2005: 689) found a similar subjectivity in their research, which they referred to as “masculine competitive,” which was “characterized by an image of the aggressive and ‘pushy’ individual, who identifies with being competitive, ruthless and target-oriented.” This masculine competitive authoritarian subjectivity, which is considered the “ideal” worker under new public management, undermines gendered “care work,” which has typically been valued within social work. I am not suggesting that gendere d social work and feminized roles are the solution or without problems , as essentializing “women’ s natural roles” reproduces sexist beliefs that contribute to gender inequality (Baines 1991; Pease, Stanford, and Vreugdenhil 2018). A critical ethic of care draws on feminist thinking that care work should be distributed more equitably between men and women, while also seeing that care work is often gendered and more often performed by women, especially invisible and unpaid in the private sphere. Rather, I look to scholars and practitione rs of social work who are re- examining the idea of care as a political concept and pushing back against the neoliberal moralistic ideas of care (disciplinary and regulatory) that reproduce inequality and injustice and recognize its potential to challenge power (Baines 2018; Pease, Stanford, and Vreugdenhil 2018). This is a critical reimagining of care, “where trust, mutuality and connectedness challenge the autonomous individualism of neoliberal policies” (Pease et al. 2018: 4). This framing also helps us to see resistance itself as an ethics of care (Baines 2018: 21). In this context, subjectivity is relational, contextual, and reflective of wider sociocultural values, gender roles, and class as well as workplace culture and the larger welfare bureaucracy . Being an agent of surveillance was an active negotiation whereby caseworkers embraced, complicated, or rejected the role of the surveilla nce worker . One thing is clear , though: approaches to social work that are typically gendered as feminine or “caring” are increasingly devalued and maligned, while “rational” and “calculated” masculine gendered scripts are preferred. We also have to take into account that subjective experiences (the micro contexts) are important, but also that caseworker ’s labour is rooted in a particular neoliberal (macro) context that surveils and regulates low-income people while their labour continues to be downsized and standardized under new public management and an ever -shrinking welfare state. Whether a caseworker took a more caring or authoritarian approach to their work, there were clear structural and organizational limitations. As we shall see, this took a toll on their capacity to do their jobs and affected their relationships with recipients, autonomy, job satisfaction, and mental health concerns. N EW P UBLIC M ANAGEMENT AND W ORKPLACE SUR VEILLANCE Welfare surveillance and modernization are inextricably tied to the neoliberal new public management ( NPM ) tur n in social services in Ontario. NPM has fundamentally altered the philosophy of welfare delivery in the province. For instance, in Toronto’ s 2018 operating budget for the Department of Employment and Social Services, there was a clear emphasis on their business transformation initiatives that are “streamlining” and “modernizing” Ontario Works ( TESS 2018, also see 2015a, 2015b). The proposed policy and administrative changes promise to “enhance and expand” the experience for “clients,” including moving to paperless correspondence, securing email correspondence with recipients, and amalgamating the delivery of services across several partner divisions. These changes were proposed alongside a reduction in some positions, rendering some jobs obsolete, and plans to privatize and outsource employment support program s to match welfare recipients with employers. This has meant less job security for social assistance workers. Here I explore how NPM and surveillance have transformed caseworkers’ labour . The Changing Natur e of Casework Surveillance workers have become a major component of modern bureaucracies (Smith 2012) and neoliberalism, and economic rationality has been the primary justification for surveillance of welfare workers and the recipients they support (Maki 2015). The jobs and working conditions of frontline caseworkers have been altered dramatically by NPM , leading to an inten sification of work, the measurement of performance, and a focus on cost efficiencies (Baines 2018; Berg and Barry 2008; Harlow 2002; Thomas and Davies 2005). NPM has driven a shift away from social work’s ethics of care and imposed downsizing of casework. Its emphasis on data collection and surveillance has significantly altered how caseworkers interact with and relate to recipients. This has led to the deskilling of caseworkers’ labour as automated technologies and data mining replace human skill and autonomy in decision making and perform the social work aspects of their jobs. Under neoliberal welfare states, the gendered assumptions tied to traditional and feminized social work (caring, nurturing, listening, sympathy , and more) are replaced with approaches to casework that resonate with business rhetoric — a rational observer (financial advisor , enforcer , overseer) that is masculine, individualistic, calculating, competitive, and target-oriented (Meagher and Parton 2004; Monahan 2009; Thomas and Davies 2005). According to Peter , a caseworker I interviewed, during the PC welfare reforms and the modernization of welfare services in his office, there was a call to recruit more men into the social work profession, to become more “gender inclusive.” Interestingly , the push to recruit more male caseworkers occurred during significant welfare overhauls that coincided with the intensification of managerialism, surveillance, tougher eligibility criteria, and punitive anti-fraud measures — processes that are more associated with the “masculine, competitive” and detached enforcer of rules indicated above. There were major changes to caseworkers’ labour to match the new enforcement, and data entry, reviews, assessments, and management quotas moved casewor k in a new direction that focused more on ineligibility and discipline rather than entitlements and support. This shift reflected the “get tough” on “welfare dependency” approach and the criminalization of poverty , and was a distinct departure from a social work ethics of care. In Ontario Works, management’ s drive for efficiency and cost-cutting measures has led to reduced staffing — subsequently downloading additional tasks related to administration, data entry, reco rd keeping, and surveillance onto caseworkers. Prior to 201 1, many OW offices were equipped with case aides who did clerical work to free up time for caseworkers to meet with recipients and provide case management. With caseloads exceeding 150 per worker , one can imagine the time that casew orkers must allocate to these administrative duties. Some caseworkers I interviewed felt that the extensive amount of paperwork and data entry was distracting and hindering them from important one-on-one time with recipients and the social work aspects of their job. As Kim shared, “the volume of paperwork compared to people work is challenging.” These findings resonate with CUPE ’s submission to the 2012 Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. After consultation with its membership, the union found that caseworkers were “concerned that high caseload levels are working against the people they serve. There are now waitlists to see clients. High paperwork expectations.… Many of our members [are] saying their work has become deskilled and impersonal; some don’t even know many of their clients” (Lankin and Sheikh 201 2: 16). Inde ed, the work ers and the recipients I interviewed both pointed out this issue. Caseworkers felt overwhelmed and disconnected from their work, as though they had “lost the human touch” from the ever -increasing caseloads and job expectations. This downloadin g of work onto frontline caseworkers means less advocacy , less people time, increased stress, and lower morale among workers. When surveillance and risk assessments take precedence over advocacy for clients, their relationship to the work and recipients shifts towards compliance enforcement, observation, and record keeping. As Kim explained, advocacy is most often limited due to paperwork: “I would say that the level of activism is just very, very quiet. The most frustrating … thing that we end up having to do is the paperwork.” Caseworkers further attested to the OW “system’ s” displacement and deskilling of their social work competencies and that their discretion was constrained because of technological and policy barriers: I thi nk the new OW system and legislation was designed to make people ineligible.… [It] was definitely designed to make people ineligible for assistance, or make it so they didn’t qualify for assistance. We were nickel and diming people. You know , if they were getting $3.41 interest per year , we were putting that in as a deduction because it was “income”.… But it was like, documentation extraordinaire , anythin g that they had and still have has to be documented. I can’ t grant or approve a case without documentation. (Patricia) Excess paperwork and data entry have altered casework, and so too has the reliance on technology to make decisions. One case manager was concerned that some workers have become too reliant on automated technology to make decisions for them: “I thin k there are some staff that would rely on the technology to pop out a dec ision for them … from my experience as a manager … ther e are some staff members that really use the technology to determine eligibility, which is not … the expectation that we have as an organization” (John). While John was critical of the dependence on technology to make decisions and how technology can desensitize interactions between workers and recipients, he also shared that “the SDMT is a too l to do the job. You shouldn’ t be using the SDMT to be doing an eligibility decision.… It’s data entry; you just put the information in and, if you do it correctly , then it wi ll spit out an eligibility decision. But I think the eligibility decision comes from the human person.” Samantha was similarly hesitant to rely on technology alone to make decisions. While she appreciated the value of the SDMT to help her organize information in an accessible and efficient manner , she stressed, “You have to rem ember that it’s also a human component of it … you have to be able to balance and communicate with a client.” Their comments are indicative of the nego tiation of the human-technology relationship, one that Smith (2012: 114) argues must be interpreted “as a dialectical social process … social realities defined by negotiation, struggle and complexity .” To best understand caseworkers in the welf are surveillance apparatus, we need to be able to see the ways in which technology has superseded caseworkers’ decisions-making capacities as well as how they interpret, respond to, and challenge technology . What this hinges on, though, is a worker committed enough to undo an erroneous eligibility decision and who will invest the time advocating to their managers to fix the errors produced by the technology . The union is a great example of how caseworkers can push back against neoliberal surveillance and technocratization of their workplaces. CUPE has publicly challenged OW’s stance on non-compliance policies (surveillance) as “punitive in nature,” which “can create financial hardships for clients and contribute to low self-esteem and morale” ( CUPE 2012: 6). Both caseworkers and recipients I in terviewed shared how power operates in disciplinary ways when non-compliance, rather than the well-being of the poor, is the focus of welfare’ s mandate. Tom, who was previously employed in the not-for – profit sector , wa s “shocked” at the style of management and restrictions in the OW workplace and the normalization of overt power imbalances between him and recipients he served: Well, I was kind of shocked.… Coming to the city’ s client group was not a surprise but the management style here was. The very restrictive environment because of the legislation and regulations was something to get used to…. I felt more removed from the client here … not only did I have to do service planning, but I had to deal with compliance issues as well as everyday living issues. So no matter what I tri ed to be to the clients, they would always see me as a person who controlled their money , and their life, really . Alongside downloading, a loss of workplace autonomy, and the technological turn, neoliberal NPM has shaped the training and professional development caseworkers receive, which has led to deskilling of their labour . A particular point of contention among caseworkers was the reduced number of in- person meetings, which they saw as essential for building rapport with recipients, advocacy, and problem solving. Because many recipients interact with multiple systems (housing, social assistance, child welfare, family court, immigration, etc.), their cases are complex and require skilled workers to find the best resources and supports available. However, some interviewees pointed out that not all caseworkers have received consistent quality training from Ontario Works regarding sensitivity and developing non- judgmental approaches. Tom offered his opinion on this matter: “We hire people to be caseworkers but unfortunately … it takes a specific kind of person to sit down like this and talk to a client and ask the right questions … being supportive, negotiating a service plan, and not dictating.” Several caseworkers remarked that placement students and new hires recently graduated with social work degrees were often disappointed to discover what welfare casework really entails — paperwork, reviews, data input, surveillance and eligibility decisions, and less one-on-one case management. One training model that was popular in 201 1–12 was “sales” training, which was promoting “customer service” skills to caseworkers to improve and humanize their interactions with clients. While this may have been management’ s attempt to repair relationsh ips between caseworkers and those they serve, caseworkers in my study had mixed feelings about the sales training model. Some felt the training was helpful because it improved the quality of their interactions with recipients. For instance, Patricia, a former welfare recipient, said: I think you’ve lost some of the humanity of welfare and you’ve lost the personal touch, which is why we did sales training. It was bringing that personal touch back into social services. You’re not just a number; you’re not just a person that we are rushing through … I do want to hear what you have to say . What is it that’ s going to make this better for you? Additionally , Joanne said, “To me, it’s better customer service if you can seat them desk side.” On the other hand, some caseworkers were disappointed with the sales training they received. Tom was especially critical of the training because it did not help him do his job “any better” or develop any new skills: “The rest was all of this touchy feely, huggy , let’ s understand how horrible life is for clients. I’m not saying it isn’t or making fun of that part of it, but I got nothing in there that made me help me do my job better .” Tom demonstrated a social work ethic of care and com passion toward the recipients he supported, yet he found the sales model flawed because it did not help workers improve upon their administrative (or surveillance) duties, which he rightly pointed out occupied a significant portion of their actual work. The sales training module is ind icative of the many ways that neoliberalism has become “common sense” in welfare offices. Equating financial assistance with the purchasing of commodity goods and using economic logic as the basis for all decisions and policy in welfare underlines the neoliberal market discourse and practices that currently dominate OW today. As Lynn Froggett and Bob Sapey ( 1997: 9) note, “By redefining clients as consumers and emphasizing the virtues of ‘choice’ and ‘diversity ,’ it has attempted to infuse welfare practice with something resembling market discipline.” This framing also skirts the reality that welfare is and has been predominantly used to discipline and transform the poor . As Schram (2018: 313) argues, “Given its disciplinary focus, neoliberal social welfare unavoidably has moralistic and tutorial dimensions, focused on telling the poor how to behave more so than providing them with needed assistance. The inculcation of personal responsibility becomes central to the welfare state.” Treating welfare like a business reproduces market dynamics in welfare offices and limits the potential for caseworkers to develop compassionate and respectful relationships with recipients, position ing the recipient as a customer of a service (“client”) rather than a person deserving and entitled to social assistance and support as a basic human right. While the sales training model may be a response to the punitive reforms of the 1990s, the focus on market dynamics undermines a social work ethics of care. Under the Neoliberal Gaze: Agents and Objects of Surveillance A lack of trust was a key factor behind neoliberal reforms in the welfare sector and Conservative demands for “accountability” regarding public spending. In this quest, NPM has become a driving force behind the intensive surveillance that permeates OW and subjects caseworkers to rigid managerial scrutiny and surveillance of every aspect of their day . Th e emph asis on monitoring is a key means for governments to ensure accountability “and regulate the performance of both organizations and workers delivering public services, and those in receipt of them” (Meagher and Parton 2004: 14). This type of managerialism requires surveillance of the programs and workers, often in the form of quotas and performance measures. It also serves to discipline workers and recipients into reinforcing neoliberal imperatives (Schram 2018). In my study , surveillance of workers’ productivity and output occurred in a variety of ways, involving both human- and computer- based modes. The shift to electronic filing and the SDMT /SAMS databas e, which is designed to surveil recipients, has at the same time left workers vulnerable to have every decision reviewed and pulled up at the click of a button. This has undeniably intensified the amount of data collected about workers. I was told they must meet quotas and timelines and provide regular statistics on every recipient on their caseload. Their email and telephone communications can be reviewed and scrutinized as well as their personal work computers and all data input. The electronic tracking caseworkers perform on recipients simultaneously tracks their own productivity , decisions, and keystrokes. Caseworkers must undergo regular performance evaluations (both individual and team), heightening the pressure to “produce results.” As Gilliom points out, “the welfare surveillance system is as much an effort to watch and control the caseworkers as it is to control the clients” (2001: 97; also see Smith 2012 ). The surveillance of caseworkers is evident in management’ s pressure to meet office targets and quotas aimed at cutting caseloads and pushing workers to be as “ef ficient” as possible. In fact, some of the funding for individual OW offices is related to their targets. Baines (2006: 24) argues that the “operationalization of right wing discourses of accountability has meant that workers’ time is dominated by statistic keeping and other forms of documentati on.” Caseworkers shared with me several ways that they felt surveilled by their employer or what Tom called the “financial surveillance of the workers.” Tar gets refer to the number of caseloads of a given office, and these may be met in several ways: disentitling recipient benefits by reviewing eligibility criteria; moving recipients off social assistance and into the job market; deferring welfare benefits with child support or spousal support payments; terminating of outdated files and repeated non-compliances cases. Using OW’s main database, SAMS, and caseworkers ’ monthly reports, statistics and data mining are the main tools used to ensure that caseworkers meet their targets. This allows for managers to collect vast amounts of data on the daily activities of every employee. Case manager John underscored the impo rtance of tar gets: “We need to hit our targets and it’s in relatio n to funding. So if you are not meeting those targets, our division is not getting the money that we planned to use throughout the year .” Caseworkers brought to my attention the multiple ways their capacity to support recipients has diminished under the neoliberal surveillance gaze. Tom remarked that surveilling caseworkers based on targets alone disregards the quality of their work they provide to their clients. Statistics and peformance measures also take up a significant portion of their time, which displaces time they could allocate to working with recipients. He was discouraged by how his stats were scrutinized by management, yet the quality of the human interactions, counselling and support (i.e., social work) he provided to recipients was hardly , if ever , monitored or assessed: So much of their time is spent on financial surveillance of the workers’ work but they’re not looking at the service plan … I have never yet in my almost ten years had a supervisor discuss my service plan.… Nobody has ever commented. If your caseload gets way out of date, they might say something because that’s a number on a report but nobody mentors, provides feedback, or talks about the quality of my documentation and service planning notes, or whether my participation agreement is filled out correctly . Joanne described how the financially incentivized targets to lower caseloads began during the PC government’ s implementation of workfare: You had to meet the standards of the office.… Here you’re scrambling as it was and you have to get your stats in because that’s what they expect of you as a case manager .… You ’ve got funding for jobs, so if you didn’ t get enou gh part icipation agreements done then someone in your office might lose a job — that was how management funded it. Joanne noted that the consequences for not meeting management quotas now are less harsh than the PC Harris years, but they are still enforce d. For instance, Directive 9.1, Reviewing Eligibility , explains, “Each month, a percentage of the cases (3%) identified as high risk will be assigned to staf f for review .” Tom’ s and Joanne’ s insights demonstrate how the ethic of care does not factor into management’ s analysis of a job well done. Quantifiable numbers and stats that are then reported to the welfare bureaucrats are all that matter . This is clearly a result of NPM ’s emphasis on “performance results,” whereby numbers take precedence over the quality of the support for recipients. The immense pressure on caseworkers to keep caseloads down and maintain their office eligibility review quotas was confirmed in interviews with their superiors. As John pointed out, they have a lot of differe nt responsibilities to balance: “When you are managing a caseload, it’s everything — technology , legislation, business procedures … and dealing with the clients and I think that can be overwhelming.” Caseworkers must work efficiently and be highly organized because funding for their office is explicitly tied to “success,” a management strategy previously only used in the private sector . Despite the constant pressure on caseworkers to meet targets, not all surveillance attempts were successful. In March 2000, the Ontario government installed tracking software and devices on caseworkers’ computers, ostensibly to measure and allegedly improve their “efficiency .” Using technology supplied by Accenture, the same company that developed the SDMT to surveil recipients, social services workers were given wearable electronic devices (this was prior to wearables like Fitbits) to track their activities virtually every minute of every day . Additionally , a small black box was attached to the workers’ computers and it would beep several times every hour, pr ompting workers to punch in a code to indicate what they were doing at that exact moment ( CUPE 2003; Hennessy and Sawchuck 2003). This data was then used to assess their productivity with the goal of altering management approaches to enhance workers’ efficiency . This pilot project, scheduled to last sixte en week s, was successfully contested by CUPE , and the tracking tools and boxes were removed. HOW C ASEWORKERS U NDERSTAND W ELFARE SUR VEILLANCE The average day of frontline caseworker consists of reviewing, assessing, and monitoring the eligibility of new and existing OW recipients by using OW’s in-house technologies and by meeting in person with recipients. They review new applications that have been pre-approved through the online or telephone system and follow up with applicants to schedule an intake interview to complete the application process. They conduct financial surveillance and update existing files for any changes in a recipient’ s circumstances and meet one-on-one with them to review and monitor progress on participation agreements (i.e., workfare). Finally, they use the EVP tool to review eligibility and high-risk cases that are triggered by the system. This can involve third-party checks and verifying any new information gleaned from these reviews with recipients. Caseworkers reported that they generally have a minimum of 150 ongoing cases and a max imum of 200, and even this understates the average caseload because a case can refer to either a single individual or a family unit receiving social assistance. In addition to high caseloads, caseworkers must understand and enforce over eight hundred legislative rules authorized under the OWA . Regardless of how compassionate or helpful caseworkers may have felt toward recipients, or even how much they pushed back against regulatio ns, they all participated in welfare surveillance as it rests at the core of the policy , technology , and delivery of Ontario Works. Yet caseworkers did not use the term “surveillan ce” — instead, “compliance” was the guiding principle used to describe their work. OW recipients are expected to be compliant — that is, to submit, yield, or adapt to OW rules in order to receive their financial benefits. Recipients who deviate from any of the applicable eligibility criteria “without good cause” are considered “non- compliant” and may have their benefits temporarily suspended or permanently terminated if they do not meet with their caseworker to discuss the circumstances and how they will rectify them ( MCCSS 2016c). Decisions involving the suspension or termination of benefits are heavily surveillance-based. This fact fundamentally shapes caseworkers’ relationships with their clients as they are situated in a position of power and mandated to enforce compliance, surveillance, and discipline. However, the caseworkers I interviewed did not perceive the emphasis on compliance as punitive. Indeed, it was remarkable how strongly some caseworkers reacted against the use of the term “surveillance.” Presumably, they felt it was a personal critique of their work and capabilities as surveillance was clearly understood as a “negative” function of welfare. It is also reflective of how they did not perceive themselves as surveillance workers; eve n the most authoritarian worker I interviewed saw himself, if anything, as a “financial advisor .” Even the use of the term “surveillance” in my consent form and recruitment poster resulted in defensiveness. Before my interview with Norah began, she objected to the term “surveillance” in my research study and felt the need to clear the air before we proceeded. Norah was supportive of my study but visibly upset that I conceptualized aspects of her job in these terms. While my use of the term was not intended to be antag onistic, this process was a good lesson in the power of discourse, meaning, and language in relation to how the caseworkers and I understood each other. Norah felt that surveillance gave caseworkers a bad name, as “unfortunately we’re seen as the bad guy even in our own community … there are othe r agencies out there that slam OW … and they don’t know , if they could spend a da y here and see a client in our office crying and us running for a box of Kleenex and saying ‘how can I help you’ … nobody ever sees that.” From a different perspective, John, a case manager , reflected on the term “surveillance” in relation to compliance: It’s not a term that I’ve heard applied before, but it is certainly accurate. Whether you are looking at the service planning and confirming that they are, or they are not, doing what they are supposed to do.… You’re updating their financial information, so they bring in copies of their bank book and you look at transactional details. They have to provide copies of their income. They’re not just allowed to give a statement — they have to give photocopies of their pay stub. They are required to bring in rent receipts. And if they have any kind of investment portfolio, RESP s and RRSP s, they are required at least periodically to provide those. So there is a surveillance piece to this and there always has been whether we call it compliance or surveillance. This explanation shows how surveillance is intertwined with neoliberal notions of individualism. Recipients’ actions and their inability to meet compliance requirements are seen as individual choices , no t the result of structural factors beyond their control. Framing surveillance in this way inaccurately implies that only non-compliance triggers intervention, when, in actua lity, a variety of surveill ance tools are built into every aspect of OW , from the application stage to the duration of their time on social assistance. While John reflected sentiments of the ethics of care and even had his own lived experience of poverty and the welfare system, he still perceived surveillance as essential to preventing welfare fraud and managing caseloads: I think … surveillance is necessary to some degree. I don’t think it should be really highly focused on … I came from a single-parent home and we were on assistance off and on and there are times where you have to lie to, you know , to manage and pay the bills. And in my personal opinion, I think that’s okay depending on what sort of extent.… However, there still needs to be … I guess for you, your word is “surveillance ,” to ensure that there are some checks and balances, right.… The root cause is not having enough — the benefits aren’ t enough. Most workers acknowledge that there needs to be some mechanism in place to ensure the continued eligibility of recipients, even though, as John indicated, the rates are not enough to survive on, so recipi ents are forced into a position where they have to break the rules. Speaking to the framing of “surveillance” in the context of his work, T om stressed, At the end of the day, whet her you want to call it surveillance or audit, isn’t it real ly the same thing? We are still talking about determining or reconfirming someone’s financial eligibility. I’m still going to look at their bank account, request rent recipients, do an Equifax report. Those things still happen in an audit system or a surveillance system. So I mean maybe the surveillance is more up front and the audit is, you know , after the fact, but to me it is the same thing and it doesn’ t address the issue. Interestingly , some workers saw the positive aspects of welfare surveilla nce as a means to actually help recipients by preventing ineligibility . Kim, who was actively involved with her union’ s anti-poverty committee, felt that OW’ s “original intent was surveillance-based but it has evolved.” She recognized that the databases caseworkers use are indeed a form of surveillance, “however, it can be useful.” Specifically , she felt that “if you look at it from a risk reduction tool, to have a conversat ion [with recipients], it is definitely helpful … it’s about moving people forward.” Kim and Tom demonstrate the challenge caseworkers face in trying to balance the punitive nature of OW’ s surveillance with their ethics of care. Their negotiations are reflective of Pleace’ s (2007) argument that surveillanc e can produce positive results if used in a particular way. At the same time, their reflections are also demonstrative of how pervasive and normalized surveillance has become in the welfare office and how the outcomes are nonetheless overwhelmingly negative. My interview with Elaine, who worked in the CVP unit was particularly illuminating, as she described the various ways that welfare surveillance operates and how caseworkers like herself are expected to adhere to the risk assessments and investigations. For instance, she recalled that the intent of the Consolidated Verification Process (now the EVP ) was to “determine legislation and track compliance review with the province … we received tar gets, if we matched those tar gets or exceed them, you got funding dollars from the province for that.” In other words, the more “high-risk” cases were found ineligible, the more funding their office received. Algorithmic surveillance prompted random triggers within the first ninety days of a recipie nt’s file, which “red flags” individuals without any evidence of non-compliance or fraudulent activities. As we know , other variables can trigger the risk analytics to flag a file for review . For instance, becoming pregnant while on assistance is considered a risk. Everyone is assessed, monitored, and investigated. If recipients do not show up for meetings to clarify “discrepancies” from third-party checks, their benefits are suspended, and if they don’t show up for twenty days, their file is termin ated, as they have to “satisfy and justify what’s going on” (Elaine). I asked why and if there is a lot of fraud happening and she said it is a “low percentage,” yet the legislation and subsequent technologies and policies are premised on the assumption that welfare recipients are inherently dishonest and untrustworthy . It was troubling to me that the provincial government leveraged financial incentives to encourage lower caseloads as it demonstrated how the financial bottom line is prioritized over the well-being of individuals who are faced with financial challenges, often through no fault of their own, and that such arbitrary , often gendered variables (e.g., pregnancy , single parenthood) were appropriated as “risk criteria.” When I asked caseworkers to think about the term “surveillance” and how it may apply to their work and OW overall, they conceptualized welfare surveillance in two ways: units and the system. First, some workers identified certain units as the prim ary surveillanc e mechanisms in OW, such as eligibility review officers ( ERO s) and the Consolidated Verification Process ( CVP ). ERO s work in the fraud unit, and their sole purpose is to conduct investigations reported to the welfare fraud hotlines or hande d off from caseworkers. The CVP unit was compr ised of workers whose entire focus was to assess files that were alerted by algorithmic surveillance and conduct investigations on new information triggered in the system. If a rec ipient was suspected of fraud, they handed it over to the fraud unit. Here, human and algorithmic surveillance came together to weed out the ineligible and seek out any new cases that might be deemed at risk for non- compliance. Caseworkers perceived the work of the CVP unit as separate from their own until the process was downsized under the Liberal McGuinty government and the work was downloaded onto frontline caseworkers. At the time of the interviews , this process had only begun, and caseworkers were concerned about how they would manage the additional responsibilities, as they were already overworked. Finally, caseworkers also pointed to surveillance bodies that were outside of OW , such as the FRO , but work in conjunction with caseworkers to investigate paternity cases and locate absent biological parents to pay child support. Caseworkers’ Experiences with W elfare Surveillance Overall, caseworkers were enthusiastic about sharing what brought them to the field of social work and their careers at Ontario Works. They were eager to talk about their work and feelings about the current state of social assistance, as they rarely got the opportunity to express these sentiments outside of their workplaces. They had a lot to say about their work and how they negotiate a complex system of bureaucracy , rules, surveillance, and or ganizational structure. Smith (2012) argues that surveillance scholars must account for those whose job it is to surveil, as well as their labour , their decisions, and the agency they have within their workplaces. This is a good reminder that the welfare surveillance apparatus involves human actors: “Far from being dispassionate and detached robots or technological ‘plug-ins,’ surveillance workers are, in reality , reflexive and knowledgeable social actors, involved in a variety of sense and decision making activities” (Smith 2012: 114). As well, they are often objects of surveillance, which has conse quences on their feelings toward the work that they do, including workplace satisfaction and mental health challenges caused by increas ing alienation and loss of autonomy . While workers conveyed a range emotions, reflections, and adaptations on their work, two central subjectivities emerged from the interview data, indicating that caseworkers adopt the social work ethic of care and/or the authoritarian overseer subjectivity. It is important to stress that there are occasions when these subjectivities overlap and that they sometimes contradict one another; many expressed sentiments of both. At times, workers appeared neutral and ambivalent, refusing to take a hard stance on any issue, and this was especially common when I brought up technology in the workplace. As discussed in Chapter 6, some workers also expressed individual and collective dissent. As such, the categories employed here are not meant to be rigid; they are fluid and contextual frameworks to better understand caseworkers’ subjective experiences working within a highly bureaucratic system. Had I the opportunity to interview more caseworkers, including those not hand selected by management, different subjectivities may have emer ged from the data. Social Work Ethics of Car e Subjectivity I emplo y the term “ethics of care” to highlight the attitudes and beliefs that some caseworkers expressed to me. The majority of the interviewees expressed sincere compassion for social assistance recipients, and some were deeply affected by frequently having to say “no” because of policy , automated eligibility decisions, and technological restraints. This was particularly common among those who had experienced poverty . Most of the caseworke rs were aware of the systemic issues in the welfare system, including that welfare policy is punitive and disciplinary and social assistance rates leave recipients far below the pover ty line, resulting in food and housing insecurity . Caseworkers were concerned that women were returning to or staying with abusive partners to survive and that many recipients lived in crowded, substandard, and unsafe housing conditions. When I asked them how they came to work at OW , they all had different journeys, but one consistent answer was their desire to “help people.” Norah, an employment counsellor , remark ed, “we’re here to help them and that’ s how everybody here sees their job. W e’re not here to hinder them. We’re here to help them.” Nevertheless, even with the best of intentions, “helping” can have unintended and negative outcomes for recipients and must be situated within a historical context so that we can unpack the social and political motivations for “helping” the poor, since social workers were originally conceptualized by the state and elites to regulate impoverished people (Little 1998; Valverde and Weir 2006). The bulk of caseworkers’ daily activities consist of filling out forms, verifying new and existing client eligibility , and administrative and surveillance tasks that do not immediately help the actual situation of the recipient and may sometimes make things worse. As some caseworkers realized, the time required to fulfill their obligatory daily tasks prevents them from actively listening, being present with, and counselling individuals in crisis. Speaking to this, Joanne complained that bureaucracy prevented her from adequately helping recipients: “You have to sympathize and empathize with them and we help them as we can, but we also have the legislation to deal with. So that can be really stressful … because you want to help them but your hands are tied to a certain extent.” Elaine spoke to the need to help individuals and the importance of the welfare social safety net: We’re servicing people, we are not machines.… It’s not about how quickly we can do an application, it’s about how effectively we can assist the people in need in front of us, that’s the ultimate goal. That’s what social assistance, your social safety net is all about … it’s there for a reason. Thank god we have it because there are people who need it. They were also faced with bureaucratic red tape the prevented them from making a positive difference. Kim shared, “We are tired of saying no, we are!… We have five million different ways to say no [and] a million other strategies to say , ‘no, but there’ s this program.’ So it would be really nice to … actually be able to say ‘yes, I can help you with that!’” Many of the workers interviewed had occupied different roles during their careers at OW . For Norah and Samantha , who had started as caseworkers and moved into employment counselling later on, they distinguished their capacity to help based on their given job title. For instance, employment counsellors generally have lower caseloads and less emphasis on paperwork, eligibility reviews, surveillance, and data input. Samantha shared, It has been more face-to-face and going out in the community . It’ s meeting with our community partners … but also meeting with people before they are employed and while they are employed. I do job retention as well, so I get to do less of the financi al stuf f, issuing cheques, checking, or bank books. I don’ t do any of that paperwork anymore. Employment counsellors were afforded more one-on-one time with recipients to provide direct support and counselling, which resulted in a dif ferent dynamic that they perceived as more positive. This opened up opportunities to work with recipients to achieve their goals, which gave them job satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Norah was particularly enthusiastic about her work: I would say most often I do really love my job and I do find it rewarding. It is great to get positive feedback from the clien ts.… The self-esteem that I see in them is totally exciting to me…. They just come in and they are so jazzed about it. “I got this job and it works!” Employment counsellors also complained less about “problem,” “difficult,” and “low -functioning” recipients. This is partly because recipients had to be out of immediate financial crisis to begin the process of becoming “employment ready.” This does not mean that recipients are off the hook; even while stabilizing, they are expected to fulfill activities outlined in their participation agreement as part of their eligibility . In the early stages, it may not be employment counselling but it would involve some obligations such as getting certain documents in order , life skills courses, and even starting to look for work. Since employment counsellors witness the successes of reci pients and can share in the satisfaction of a job well done, they may feel that they are in a “helping” position where an ethics of care is an attainable and rewarding aspect of their job. By contrast, frontline caseworkers’ jobs were not perceived as flexible or rewarding. They worked primarily with what many referred to as “dif ficult clientele,” individuals who often have significant barriers to applying for social assistance, let alone finding and securing permanent paid employment. Unfortunately , negative interactions with recipients, or the “bad apples,” as some of them put it, are the most memorable and contaminate caseworkers’ perceptions of the people they serve. Yet the caseworkers I interviewed also recognized how poverty, trauma, and crisis shaped how and why their clients acted the way they did. Joanne spoke of a particularly difficult day and revealed the verbal abuse some caseworkers experience while still empathizing with recipients: I had somebody swearing at me this morning that he was in jail because I wouldn’ t give him his cheques.… Let’s face it, anybody who’ s in crisis, you or I included, if you are desperate and if you are having trouble providing for your family, all of a sudden that desperation can really change you. A normally calm person can change their personality very quickly . Joanne was well aware of the stigma that recipients face trying to acces s the many systems that are supposed to help them (social assistance, housing, legal aid, etc.), but she recognized that many clients had no choice and nowhere else to turn — they were laid off, encountered health problems, relationships ended, or a combination of similar factors pushed them into financial hardship. She stressed that the rates do not match the cost of living, “I have to apologi ze … it’s almost embarrassing that we give them so little.” The working poor feel the brunt of OW’s exclusion ary eligibility criteria, she said, because those who are working, even if precarious and part time, must work under a certain number of hours consistently over a three- month period to be eligible for social assistance. This puts many in dire financial situations, potentially turning down additional work shifts offered by their employers in order to retain basic social assistance and the OW drug card. Though workers within the welfare surveillance apparatus were under constant pressures from management to reduce their caseloads, not all were preoccupied with catching fraudulent recipients. A number of caseworkers I interviewed were sympatheti c and sensitive to the fact that the low welfare rates forced recipients to find “alternative ways” to make ends meet. T om put himself in the shoes of his clients: I thi nk sometimes there is just a helpless kind of “okay , what am I going to do. I can’ t ar gue against the system.” … I hesitate to paint all clients or a majority as committing fraud, but some of them do what they need to do. They say “if I eventually get caught, well, so be it. I had to eat, I had to feed my kids.” Caseworkers seemed guarded about how often they look the other way, but I got the sense that it is common among those who practise an ethic of care. Tom stressed the importance of advocating for recipients but said that doing this requires time, a firm knowledg e of the legislation and its possible loopholes, and a commitment to go beyond their job descriptions. “If you can make the case, document it if it’s logical, a lot of great things can happe n and a lot of exceptions can be made that are still in line with the legislation.… A lot happens if a caseworker takes the time to do that and the supervisor is willing to listen,” said Tom. This sentiment was also noted by John and Samantha, who shared numerous examples of their advocacy efforts with me. Others mentioned that they have made a dif feren ce in the lives of recipients by aligning their approach with an ethic of care. “I don’ t know how many times I’ve had clients say, ‘I was so upset about having to come in here and you’ve made it bett er, you’ve made it so easy .’ There’ s no reason to make people feel bad about applying for assistance,” Patricia said. However , it made me wonder how caseworkers are able to do this intensive advocacy when they are constantly asked to be mor e efficient and cut, not save, their already enormous caseloads. However , social work ethics of care and “helping” are also obscured by the neoliberal individualism, regulation, and social control inherent in Onta rio Works. Moral regulation played a major role in shaping caseworkers’ relationship to their jobs and the people they serve — transforming the poor into “productive” market citizens is a key goal of neoliberal welfare. This individualistic perspective, even among the most compassionate caseworkers I met, shaped how they approached their jobs. This is not surprising as it is emphasized in the workplace culture, perceiving recipients as “clients,” in the training they receive (e.g., “sales”), and it is enforced by management via performance measures. Consequently, they were also encouraged to “transform” themselves as neoliberal workers and produce results that met the criteria (i.e., “tar gets”) of their municipal governments. Norah was an incredibly passionate employment counsellor. I could feel the ener gy radiate off of her when we met for our interview . It was clear that she loved her job and felt that she was making a dif ference in the lives of recipients. Norah perceived OW as a program to help recipients improve themselves, achieve independence, and subsequently become good workers and contributors to society . A contradiction emer ges in this logic , though : recipi ents are told to become self-suf ficient but are not trusted to do this without oversight, which becomes seen as a neces sary form of discipline. Norah illustrates this inconsistency: Movement to impr ovement! … It’s not that you have to look for work or we’re cutting you off, it doesn’ t work like that. There is such a thing as non-compliance and that could be where we get the terrible reputation … and that’ s for people that continually refuse to do anything.… There are people out there that feel that it is their god-given right to be on welfare because it’s there and they don’t think they should have to do anything.… The tiniest, tiniest percentage of people we ever see are non-compliant. Norah asserts that OW’ s bad repu tation rests on the small percentage of welfare recipients who are “non-compliant” and argues they are the main reason surveillance is mandatory . She also felt that some recipients want or choose to be on welfare and have no real desire to work — this statement, regardless of her intent (that is, to help), conveys classist individualistic stereotypes that welfare is a “lifestyle choice.” Authoritarian Overseer Subjectivity The authoritarian overseer subjectivity , in contrast to the social work ethic of care, involves a detached approach to casework and an unwavering tendency to uphold rules and regulations. It is characterized by judgmental, moralistic attitudes and a belief that one of caseworkers’ responsibilities is to discipline their clients. For caseworkers who adopt the authoritarian overseer subjectivity , surveillance comes with the territory and is not perceived as negative, intrusive, or regulatory — it is simply part of the job and a necessary means to ensure “compliance” with the rules. Of course, these subjectivities are fluid and contextual and may change over time. Only one of my interview subjects personified the authoritarian overseer and he was exceptional in several ways. First, as a male in a female-dominated profession, he felt that he had a dif ferent approach to his work and that he received caseloads that were deemed “high risk” (violent ex-offenders) because of his gender , expertise, and demeano ur. His gendered assumptions of casework, whether intentional or not, stereotyped female caseworker s as emotional, caring, and nurturing while simultaneously assuming that, as a male caseworker , he was rational, decisive, and strong. Peter was reluctant to identify his work responsibilities as social work and instead normalized surveillance: “I never looked at it as surveillance. It’s no different than me going into a bank and making an application for a loa n … basically , I do financial assessments.” He criticized the (feminine) ethic of care as “touchy feely” and stressed the procedural and financial responsibility of the job. In a sarcastic tone, he said, “If you talk to a lot of other caseworkers … they want to do more one- on-one. They want to do a lot more individual ‘how can I help you … how can I help you lick your wounds and move forward?’” His deep-seated belief in the system’ s rules and regulations overshadowed any sympathy he may have felt for his clients and kept him detached. Second, Peter was exceptional because he saw his clients as “life-skill challenged” and on social assistance because of their “lifestyle choices.” He believe d that they “chose” a life of poverty and to not conform. “They’ve made a choice for ‘my time’ … and I struggle with this.… They just don’t feel bad about being on Ontario Works.” This quote illustrates that some caseworke rs justify the excessive rules and surveillance by believing the rules are requi red to keep recipients in line. His goal was to ensure that recipients were not “abusing” the welfare system or “getting something for nothing.” For these reasons, Peter celebrated the OW workfare model as an improvement over the old system of general welfare because it forced applicants to be “accountable” to the program and discourages “generational drains” on the system: People get intim idated when they know the ownership’ s put back on them.… Before, there wasn’t really any ownership, you just had to apply .… We’d ask them to do a job search … but there was never really any follow up to that. But now there’ s more ownership put back on the individual; we see them every three months and we have employment counsellors that work with them.… We try to get them to move forward all the time if they can show us the limitations of why they can’t. We’re not here to browbeat them or anything. The discourse of “ownership” is particularly telling of Peter ’s perceptions about recipients and replicates individualistic stereotypes about poverty that were, and continue to be, justifications for neoliberal surveillance-based approaches to casework. By demanding ownership of their personal failings as flawed market citizens, Peter, and other authoritarian overseers within OW, are neither social workers nor wholly “financial advisors” — they are neoliberalism’ s new welfare police. Tom did not embody the authoritarian overseer but shared some examples of his colleagues whose actions aligned with this subjectivity . He reported, I’ve seen some workers try to force homeless clients to report their panhandling income so that they could take that 50 percent off of their OW cheque … I’ve heard a worker argue with their supervisor that they know that the person who is homeless panhandles, and they don’t declare that income and that they should be. And although technically , I guess they should, or you could make them, most of us would never d ream of askin g somebody who panhandles to declare that as an income. Tom related another example, whereby “the worker who tries to get the person through gifts and loans to reduce their monthly benefits.… The worker was aware that the client went every Sunday to their parents for dinner , so they wanted to stick a value on that because it was an ‘ongoing contribution.’” Patricia also witnessed some authoritarian behaviour from her colleagues: “Some are brutal with people; they say things they shouldn’ t say to people … it’s just not right.” Prior to her employment at OW , Patricia was on social assistance. While she was fleeing an abusive partner , she had an encounter in which her male caseworker criticized her for leaving and suggested that maybe she “deserved” the abuse. This deeply troubled h er and was still a vivid memory of her attempts to access financial support to live a life free from violence. While caseworkers such as Patricia found this deplorable, the abuse of power by the authoritarian overseer caseworker was an unfortunate reality that many single mothers I interviewed regularly encountered. As noted, caseworkers’ feelings toward and interactions with recipients were complex and fluid, and some held competing beliefs simultaneously . For instance, Norah connected to the ethics of care as a “helper” yet had strong feelings toward “difficult clients” and how they refuse to help themselves. Difficult and generational clients were perceived as needing constant monitoring because they were seen as incapable of doing so themselves. As Norah said, “A lot of these people are so broke n. They’ve learned that there’ s excuses and they can give you every excuse under the sun, okay.… You know these people can’t regulate themselves, that’s why they’re on it.” These clients were seen as “refu sing to help themselves,” and this attitude is deeply rooted in the earliest welfare policies, reinforcing welfare’s impetus for moral regulation and surveillance. The authoritarian overseer is indicative of the persistent hegemonic influence of the poor laws, specifically the belief in the need to regulate and discipline impoverished people. Regardless of the position caseworkers took on surveillance or what subjectivity they predominantly occupied, the reality is that their role in the welfare surveillance apparatus is crucial. The human aspect of surveillance and agency has not been completely eroded with automation, and the apparatus involves a complex interplay between policy, technology , and the workers. The relationship between the caseworker and the recipient is a critical piece that can drastically alter the outcomes and well-being of recipients. This is why authoritarian overseers are so worrisome. According to John, around the time of our interview , OW sent out a survey to recipients to find out what factors we re neede d for them to be “successful.” Unsurprisingly , O W defines success as finding employment and moving off social assistance. Regardless of this narrow definition, John shared that the survey results indicated that the most importan t factor in client success is the “relationship they have with their caseworker . If they don’t have that then there’ s these barriers that go up and prevent them from moving forward.” A positive and supportive relationship with the casewo rker is exactly what single mothers I interviewed said they needed. However , as more decision making is automated and algorithms decide who is deserving, quotas to keep caseloads down are enforced, surveillance and compliance enforcement is the focus, and employment supports are outsourced to the private sector, where does that leave caseworkers? The wider structural factors and how this impacts their work must be considered. Here I turn to how workplace stressors influenced their autonomy, job satisfaction, and mental health. JOB S ATISF ACTION AND W ORKPLACE H EALTH AND SAFETY Now that we have an understanding of the changing nature of casework and how caseworkers understood and participated in welfare surveilla nce — as both agents and objects of the gaze — I now turn to the outcomes of new public management on the workers themselves. The drive for efficiency is deeply interconnected with workplace surveillance and has ultimately altered the work and job satisfaction of caseworkers. Research in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Sweden, and Australia has shown that increased reliance on technology in social service delivery workplaces and the accompanying deskilling of social work have had negative outcomes for workers, including reduced worker autonomy , compromised morale on the value of their decision making and expertise, and dehumanizing frontline casework (Baines 2004, 2018; Berg and Barry 2008; Dominelli and Hoogvelt 1996; Gilliom 2001; Hennessy and Sawchuk 2003; Harlow 2002; Mooney and Law 2007; Thomas and Davies 2005). Most of the workers I interviewed felt that their jobs were meant to help low-income people, but their autonomy to make decisions and respond to recipie nts’ individual challenges and crises was limited by excessive paperwork, data input, and quotas. “You help people and it’s very rewarding, but it [paperwork] can be obviously very frustrating at times,” said Joanne. Data entry, enforced verification processes, and monitoring workfare assignments felt disconnected from helping recipients and left caseworkers feeling alienated from their labour . Indeed, many were disappointed to discover upon entering the profession how little time they actually had to “help” recipient s. Samantha, for example, was relieved when she was transferred to a position as an employment counsellor : In the beginning of my time with Ontario Works, I was a caseworker and definitely bogged down with paperwork and entering things into the com puter … my focus is … more in line with the helping and counselling.… The eligibility stuff wasn’ t for me. It’s not that I couldn’ t do it. I was still ef fective, but it wasn’ t my passion. Tom was also frustrated because he felt restrictive legislation undermined his capacity to make decisions that were beneficial for the people he was serving: “It doesn’ t allow enough flexibilit y for me to actually provide the service based on the person’ s needs.” He felt that the system is “too administratively focused … there is so much that you have to do. This has to be filled in. You have to change this date. So you are really driven by administrative needs as opposed to service needs.” This frustration was expressed by other workers, who wanted to provide more support to recipients but were constrained by bureaucracy , technology , and management. CUPE ’s 2012 report confirmed that their members we re conc erned with automate d services and “virtual relationships” that are replacing one-on-one casework ( CUPE 2012: 16). OW caseworkers are not only displaced by technology and automations, they are also shut out of workplace discussions and decisions about their labour. Several workers were exasperated that senior management had little to no experience working with the recipients but made decisions on frontline practices. As Tom expressed, “There were a lot of pressures from management in what was expected of us and what the clients actually needed, which some of that, to a small degree I think, is about … managers never administering Ontario Works on the frontline before but being the ones that come up with the policies.” Other caseworkers conveyed that management was “detached” and “removed” from the daily pressures of casework and therefore should not have the authority to create policies that impact frontline work without input from caseworkers, who are the experts in this area. Given that they work in a fast-paced and constantly evolving environment that is highly bureaucratic, it is not surprising that many caseworkers reported challenges with mental health, workplace stress, and reduced job satisfaction. Since the neoliberal overhaul in the 1990s and into the 2000s, labour unions representing public workers have documented numerous grievances concerning government restructuring, workplace technologies, the deskilling of labour , and workers’ reduced autonomy. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union was the first union to publicize “workplace stress due to downsizing, overwork, and lack of flexibility of work processes” (Hennessy and Sawchuk 2003: 320). Several of the caseworkers I interviewed had witnessed rapid workplace changes during this time and were able to provide some context on how workers coped and made sense of it all. This insight helps us to better understand the changing workplace conditions and roles that mark the neoliberal era. Interviewees for my research revealed many health and safety concerns that emer ged with the implementation of NPM and workplace surveillance. Patricia remembered the increased stress and job dissatisfaction that was brought on by the changes to computer -based surveillance and case management: There were people crying in the halls, and it was very, very stressful because up until that point in time we did nothing on computers and all of a sudden we were doing everything on the computer . Ma nagement was taking our hard copy files from us … it was very intimidating.… The fear that I can ’t do it, I’m not going to be able to comprehend this, I’m not going to be able to work with this.… Some people didn’ t even know how to type. Patricia reveals the disempowe rment and alienation that she and her colleagu es felt during the restructuring. In addition to the technological overhaul, Patricia felt that the legislation and new policy direction drove people “deeper into poverty ,” added new “red tape” and forced recipients “jump through hoops” to get their benefits, while workers felt like they were “never listened to” and had no say in the changing welfare services. They had less discretio n to make decisions on cases and work with or around the system to help recipients. This reality has been found in other research, including a UK study that found that “social work managers emphasize the loss of professional discretion and the privileging of compliance procedures over a more intuitive and flexible approach” (Thomas and Davies 2005: 690). Caseworkers felt the pressure from every angle — recipients, management, and the government. Ironically, the system that was designed to lessen the burden of paperwork and be more efficient actually increased the demands on caseworkers in both number of caseloads and increased documentation into the system. The fate of reci pients and the expansion of caseloads were also big concerns for caseworkers. For instance, Elaine, a union steward during that period , recalled the hundreds of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims that were directly associated with increased computer use. These injuries became a major health and safety concern of the union. Many claims involved repetitive strain injuries because workers were unaccustomed to such high levels of data input and computer usage, although officials tried to minimize such issues. “The city tried to argue it and fight it and say it wasn’ t work related — but neck, shoulder , and hand injuries were clearly the result of a changing work environment” (Elaine). Elaine and Patricia were the most outspoken about their dissatisfaction with new technology , perhaps because they had faced the most dramatic technological overhauls over the course of their careers. Kim confirmed that repetitive strain injuries continued to plague workers. Caseworkers shared that automations built into the system caused havoc and were “the worst” because of system errors. Specifically , overpayments were difficult for workers to fix on their own and they had to rely on the help of expensive consultants: “Having those people on site to be able to do all of that trouble shooting in a day .… In our office of one hundred [workers], we have two who are constantly busy.… It’s a huge financial burden for the municipalities to continue to have to pay that support for a computer system that isn’t working,” Kim said. Even with the numerous “workarounds” that caseworkers tried to use to circumvent the inflexible system, they were largely ineffective as there were always new issues arising. And when automatic letters are sent to recipients without any details on why their payments were incorrect or the administration error, it can cause a crisis and mistrust of the caseworkers, who have to try to repair the relationship, restore trust, and reassure recipients, causing additional stress for everyone. This caused a great deal of stress for workers, who, at no fault of their own as their “hands were tied,” had to explain why the “system” was making people ineligible. Studies have shown that social workers have a high rate of professional contact with traumatized populations (Bride, Radey, and Figley 2007; Sprang, Craig, and Clark 2011). CUPE (2012: 16) has identified burnout, compassion fatigue, and stress as workplace health and safety concerns due to “unrealistic caseload expectations.” These are just some of the mental health concerns affecting frontline caseworkers who assist those with high needs and/or trauma victims on a daily basis. Compassion fatigue (also known as secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma) stems from workers having to continually say “no” to recipients because of cuts, bureaucratic barriers, automated features, faulty technology , and punitive eligibility rules. Witnessing countless stories of poverty , domestic violence, health issues, poor housing conditions, discrimination, loss of jobs/lay offs, and child apprehension significantly affects the workers and can be debilitating both physically and mentally . Norah commented that it is “a fairly new term … our whole offic e is a … huge example of compassion fatigue because all you hear day in and day out.… You can ’t imagine the stories … these people are living this. They’re not making it up, they’re not lies!” Workers also spoke of compassion fatigue in relation to peers who have given up hope of helping recipients. Elaine said it is “very difficult and very stressful to have to continually say no and watch the hardship of the people day after day after day.” Caseworkers cited using up their sick days and high numbers of stress leave because of “com passion fatigue syndrome.… They’re definitely bordering on the amber -slash-red zone almost every day” (Kim). Burnout is defined as “a prolonged psychological response to chronic workpla ce stressors” (Sabo 2011: 258). The symptoms involve long-term exhaustion, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment, cynicism, diminished interest in work, and disempowerment, all of which can lead to depression as well as physical ailments like gastrointestinal issues, headaches, and sleep disturbances (Kim and Kao 2011). It is a consequence of workers trying to navigate a workplace that limits their autonomy , thereby preventing them from making decisions that could improve the lives of recipients. Several caseworkers said that feeling unappreciated and blamed for the current state of the system, as well as bearing the brunt of recipients’ frustration, took its toll on their mental health and job satisfaction. Burnout was most common in caseworkers who tried to reconcile an ethics of care and believed that their job should be about helping people. While Joanne expressed irritation with her difficult and abusive clients, she simultaneously held deep compassion for them. Challenging the stere otype that the poor are lazy and lack any work ethic, she added a human face to welfare recipients: People say, “It must be so difficult having a job like yours and dealing with those people” and I’m like, “You know what? I deal with a lot of really nice people.… Yes, there are some difficult people, but a lot of it is mental health and anybody can have mental health issues in their family .… Yes, that can be trying and stressful at times, but most people want to work.… These people are your neighbours, your friends.” In many instances, caseworkers felt frustrated by those who challenged their authority but, at the same time, they wanted to help recipients navigate a broken and complex system. Joanne told me that the workplace is “very stressful at times” due to overwhelming feelings of helple ssness, disempowerment, and alienation. Burnout is often accompani ed by feelings of being overwhelmed and disempowered that make basic, everyday tasks daunting — yet caseworkers must continue to work with populations in crisis and face th e constant changes in policy and technology in the workplac e. “I think our biggest stresses in this field come from change,” said Norah. She was candid about the problems in her office despite her upbeat demeanour and desire to help her clients. And she was sympathetic towards colleagues who have developed post-traumatic stress disorder because of their frontline work: We do a lot of band-aid stuff he re in this office … to try and make it work for the clients.… We know the bad PR out there.… If they could only walk a day in our shoes, we got people here with post-traumatic stress from listening to these stories day in and day out … that’ s all we hear … I couldn’ t live that life! The disconnect bet