A dignified approach

What is the true value of caring and supporting others? Of late I’ve realised more and more that our society tends to assign a monetary value to everything – including the role of carers of disabled people and people who live with long term conditions.

But that doesn’t need to be the case.

I was recently at an event organised by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, on “the economics of dignity”. The seminar was addressed by Dr Marilyn Waring, a feminist academic from New Zealand who has spent the last 25 years working to empower woman and men to challenge the priorities that are imposed upon them by economists.

She told of her own experiences as an author, an academic, and crucially as a carer for her father, and how they all led her to believe that dignity (a basic human right) is missing from the systems set up to support us all. How we tend to think about outputs from services as being most important – not the outcomes for the people we love.

She designed research which took in evidence from across the world of human rights violations related to carers and young carers, which meant missing school, less food to eat, constant loan repayments, domestic violence, a lack of clean water and wives and daughters sent to care away from home. In response, a capability approach was used– one which argued support for carers should be drawn on the human rights which apply to us all and affect our everyday lives.

I didn’t know much about Dr Waring’s work before the event but she gave a fantastic analysis of the situation as she sees it affecting Scotland, and impressed upon the audience that people from across the world are watching what we do next for carers, and for young carers in particular.

I spoke to friends and colleagues afterwards and looked through the body of evidence that has been developed around this type of work. It made me reflect again on the importance of initiatives, like the Health and Social Care Academy, which seek to listen to the voice of people and their lived experiences.

She made me think more about the upcoming carers legislation in Scotland – and the opportunity it offers us to think differently about assessing carers needs. We should be asking questions such as:

• “How is your own health?”
• “Are you able to do any work outside of the home?”
• “Can you go to any community or political meetings?”

We need to ask these questions so that we know what needs to change – and backing that up with real action, or else we run the risk of raising expectations with little end product.

Rather than asking what do carers offer to society in a financial sense, we need to turn the question on its head and ask “what is the state doing to ensure carers´ human rights are respected?”
Originally posted in February 2015 through The Health and Social Care Academy blog

Interested in finding out more?
Dr Marilyn Waring´s lecture is available to watch on the Glasgow Centre for Population Health website

The Carers Bill, that Dr Waring refers to was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 10th March 2015

See Professor Waring´s own web-site


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