Debt advice, as a neoliberal variant of social welfare in the UK, highlights the introduction and repercussions of approaches to welfare that encourage, and/or rely on, financial speculation. Since the 1990s, senior managers in the debt advice sector have anticipated funding cuts by advocating co-operation with the financial industry, implying a financialised concept of social welfare that valorises the redistribution of opportunities to speculate, rather than that of wealth. Yet following cuts, ‘front-line’ debt advisers complain they are unable to provide the required level of care and compassion, leading to an increase in church-based, volunteer-run debt advice, aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable. Rather than some pre-determined political modality, the ethical concepts of welfare that caught on, and the moral qualities consequently ascribed to its beneficiaries, emerged at the interface of managers’ assessments of the viability of particular funding models with the political-economic conditions in which those models were implemented.
- SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice