Bringing carers’ and users’ goals closer
It could be argued that social care ideology and policy has been influenced by 2 movements with polarised perspectives. The first is the independent living movement with the social model, which sees social care have a fundamental right for disabled people to be empowered citizens, where the employment of personal assistants is seen as the best option to gain control over one’s life. This ideology has resulted in direct payments, and personal budgets, and is now a key component of social worker education. In the model, there is no such thing as unpaid carers as it is deemed inappropriate to be dependent on others in this way.
The carers movements have been a campaign which is slowly increasing its awareness of the role of unpaid family members and others in social care. Often portrayed as family members with spouses who have dementia or other conditions where mental capacity is an issue, with the lived experienced of carers as often isolated, unsupported and unconsidered by their community and local government. As the advocate by default for their loved ones, the current government is recognising the needs of unpaid carers without necessary substituting it with paid support. Critically, when carer’s needs and wants are discussed, it is assumed users, the cared for, have very little say in matter as they are just the responsibility of loved ones and therefore have no social role.
Both viewpoints do indeed represent some users and carer’s lived experiences but as differing groups choose to work in one of these perspectives, it remains unhelpful to have these two opposites working against each other. It has to be recognised that some people are single with no family while some have large family, but social care should be about supporting the family unit whatever it is and whoever it includes. It is not about a free for all for every aunt and uncle to have a say in who people are supporting, but rather establishing the members of a functioning family, people who are interdependent for economic, social and health issues for example.
New language and understanding needs to be formed which recognises the viewpoints from each movement and brings them together to help everyone. This is indeed no easy task but I hope this article amongst others can spark debate and discussion on the matter.