SSC Seminar Series: Krystle Maki

Krystle Maki, PhD Candidate

Department of Sociology

Queen’s University

Under the Watchful Eye of Ontario Works:

Surveillance and Welfare Recipients

Thursday, February 18th

12:30pm to 1:30pm

Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room D-411

The paper explores the dramatic increase of surveillance mechanisms currently used in social services in Ontario Canada. In the last two decades welfare administration has undergone adramatic transformation in most Western democracies. Manyjurisdictions have increased surveillance, reduced welfare rates, restricted eligibility and increasingly tied welfare to workparticipation.In the Ontario case, all four of these administrative toolshave been utilized to radically alter the nature and philosophy ofwelfare delivery. Accompanying these financial reforms was the increased surveillance of individuals and families receiving social assistance in the province of Ontario. Surveillance of welfare recipients is not new per se, but the methods and extent of surveillance has significantly transformed. For instance, the introduction of large technological databases have changed eligibility criteria as well as classifications of ‘fraud’, while biometrics (finger printing, iris scanning) and Smart Cards have developed the means to monitor the poor in ways that were simply not possible in the past. The paper argues that through the multitude of surveillance technologies, Ontario Works has made living on social assistance increasingly more demoralizing, in addition to the added difficulty of obtaining welfare benefits for low-income families.

Everyone welcome!