Finally, there is an international forum for research and debate where the problems and questions that surround unpaid care provided at home can receive attention alongside many of the other questions raised by changing policies and service systems. The International Journal of Care and Caring, first published in 2017, has quickly become essential reading for those of us concerned with changing approaches to care.
Alongside academic research studies of care, contributors from across the globe can now exchange ideas and experiences about developments in their homeland that might be of interest to those in other countries. It turns out the issues that are usually seen as being of local interest only are uncommonly widespread. Global forces of change and international trends in service design and policy mean that we share much in common.
In the section dedicated to debates, there have been two contributions about carers from Australia to date.
The first by Helen McFarlane and Karen Turvey discussed the collaborative approach taken to the development of the NSW Carers Strategy.1 This built on and extended the modest but important gains that carers have made in this country, highlighted in the Carer Recognition Acts passed at state and national levels since 2010. Nothing revolutionary, but worth celebrating both in its own right and as a foundation for future developments in the recognition and support of carers.
The second2 from Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia, outlined the ‘collateral damage’ to carers that has resulted from the implementation of aged care and disability care reforms.
A similar observation was made in the most recent issue by Tim Anfilogoff, a UK-based service commissioner from Herts Valley.3 He is distressed about the backslide that carers have been experiencing in England over the past decade. He argues that while UK legislation and government policy are now “more carer friendly” than ever, the reality is that resources have been withdrawn and carers face very increased workloads with decreasing support from both social care services and the NHS.
A recent British report he cites found that since 2010 there has been a 26 per cent reduction in funding for social care services. These cover home support for elders as well as people with disabilities. As a result, there are 400,000 ‘missing users’ who have instead been forced to make do with support provided at home by unpaid family carers. A survey by Carers UK in 2017 found that one in every two carers thought the lack of support was damaging their health. Even worse, 78 per cent, more than three in every four, reported that it was harming their mental health.
The picture is mixed – a step forward and, it seems more recently, a step backwards for carers.
The last 40 years had given carers reason to be optimistic. After years of thankless neglect, their invisible work was finally being recognised. Benefits, payments and access to support services for those they care for as well as for carers themselves seemed to be significant improvements. Now, in England and Australia, doubts are raised as carers report problems as they are both locked out of service systems and forced to provide assistance to loved ones who are also excluded from support.
It is a perfect storm, according to Anfilogoff. The right time to fix the roof.
Michael Fine is an honorary professor at Macquarie University, and co-editor of the International Journal of Care and Caring. This article was originally published in Australian Aged Care INsite and has been republished with kind permission.
1 International Journal of Care and Caring, Volume 1, Number 1,
March 2017, pp. 127-134(8)
2 International Journal of Care and Caring, Volume 1, Number 2,
June 2017, pp. 275-279(5)
3 International Journal of Care and Caring, Volume 2, Number 1,
March 2018, pp. 125-132(8)