This paper explores surveillance as a relevant topic that I frequently encountered while accomplishing my internship at Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS). I’ve chosen to review and discuss how recipients are undergoing a constant surveillance, documentation and scrutiny when applying for Ontario Works and while being on the assistance. There is a considerable body of literature in this area which indicates the complexity of surveillance and its profound detrimental impact on the applicants’ physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. Research indicates that the nature of welfare delivery which initially was recognized as equitable and universal available became less accessible due to the Government’s constant cut of funding allotted to social welfare and to a tedious and bureaucratic process that aims to limit applicant’s eligibility. Under a modern welfare system, financial assistance is conditioned by employment participation; the applicants must partake in work related activities such as resume writing or job search whereas being closely scrutinized and “guided” by the case workers. The ultimate neoliberal purpose is for agency to be able to publish new success stories, where the former recipient became financially independent, recognizing the ongoing support provided by the welfare system.
For my paper I have selected peer review articles, selected from social work, social policy and sociology journals published between 2009 and 2014. The searches were conducted based on keywords such as surveillance, scrutiny, social policy, welfare state, identity and privacy. Articles were selected if they addressed surveillance as a way to make decisions about deserving and non-deserving, as a social sorting tool aim to discriminate, classify and create inequalities amongst recipients of social assistance.
Over the last decade welfare rates have been decreased dramatically and social reform principles- universality, accessibility and equality- have been altered by the market- centered philosophy of neoliberalism. Derisory Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates leave recipients living in precarious health, economic and social conditions. Dominant discourse in regards to the welfare system is that the recipient once receiving social assistance will become “welfare dependent’ and will rely only on public assistance. The new social practice grounded on a neoliberal approach along with the discourse of ‘welfare dependent’ were two factors that determined surveillance as a controlling and monitoring phenomena to emerge. Surveillance became a ‘justified’ anti-fraud measure and a permanent method of control and reassurance for the government that the recipient is focusing on going back on the job market and become the worthy, taxpayer citizen.
According to Bernard-Wills David in Surveillance and Identity (2013), researches about the history and origin of the surveillance have...