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The ultimate safety net? Informal financial support among low-income households

Alexander, Eileen (2022) The ultimate safety net? Informal financial support among low-income households. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004472


Informal financial support is a vital yet under-examined source of welfare for people on low incomes. This thesis explores why and how people draw on networks of family, friends and neighbours for financial support to cover their basic living costs and considers the significant practical and emotional implications the practice has for individuals, their relationships and wider support networks. It takes as its starting point Robert Pinker’s (1971, 1979) view of social policy as a discipline that should take into account how ordinary people go about enhancing their own welfare and the welfare of their family members and friends in their everyday lives. The findings are based on unstructured interviews with fifty working-age social housing tenants living in the South West of England centred around a support network mapping exercise. The research identifies informal financial support as a distinctive form of support among the broad range of informal help and care people engage in on a daily basis. It highlights the significant work involved in providing and navigating informal financial support within a context of poverty, as well as the often challenging clash participants experienced between societal norms of independence and support, and the reality of their interdependent lives. For many participants, informal financial support was “the ultimate safety net”, but the research finds that the practice exposed people and their networks to multiple negative impacts and associated risks, including relationship breakdown, isolation and financial insecurity. The study concludes by arguing for a social policy based on an ethic of care that recognises and supports people's interdependence across households, while also working to prevent and mitigate the negative effects of informal financial support.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Eileen Alexander
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Power, Anne and Stewart, Kitty

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