Saturday, 30 October 2010

Care Credits

I woke up this morning to the news that the Government is considering a system of 'Care Credits' which has apparently operated in Japan since 1991.

Just to summarize the idea is that volunteers providing care build up 'credits' which they themselves can use. In Japan this can be either themselves or a relative and the credits seem to be weighted towards tasks such as personal care as opposed to shopping and towards unsocial hours.

Even stranger on BBC breakfast none other than Professor Heinz Wolff (last seen in this Nintendo DS puzzle game). Presumably Heinz Wolff was there to lend some intellectual gravitas to what is a scheme worthy of a mad professor.

I don't know where to begin with picking apart this policy. It could be that Japan is a very different society to our own so the success of a policy there is little guarantee of success elsewhere. It could also be that the system will favour certain social groups above others; particularly those rich in both free time and cultural capital.

I would rather though focus on the role of professional carers. Whilst the voluntary sector in my area did take over the nicer aspects of care; shopping, hoovering, dog walking and luncheon clubs where (generally) elderly ladies would gather for a nice chat over a cup of tea, the professional sector did the hard jobs; the personal care which could be anything from changing incontinence pads to bathing or applying cream, helping to manage medication, as well as dealing with difficult clients and when I say difficult I do mean difficult.

The job of a professional carer requires a high degree of skill and dedication. This is matched by a high level of responsibility and accountability. Sadly the pay and social status (of both paid and unpaid carers) lag far behind. This has led us to believe that the carers job is something which could be done by anybody.

It isn't.


  1. This news irritated me no end for many of the same reasons that you've highlighted. Fine, befriending is all very well and it happens locally and certainly adds to the general well-being of older adults particularly those who are isolated but when they talk about 'personal care' we are on very shaky ground. I wouldn't want a volunteer carrying out 'personal care' for a family member of mine. As you say, care work is not a job anyone can do and this seems to devalue those carers who are hardworking and excellent at their job. Can we have credits for tax work if I do a few sums on my calculator in the spare time..
    As you also mention, I am concerned about those who might not be able to offer this service - will they be frozen out of receiving a decent service in the future if they don't volunteer - to be honest, I work in the sector and have 7 years as a care worker under my belt, without wanting to sound selfish, there's no way I'd want to actually volunteer to do this work in my spare time as well! I think we need to concentrate on the ways this government is chipping away at our expectations of what will be provided for us in our old age. It is frightening.

  2. Hi cb,

    I think that's a great point. There does seem to be a whole subtext running through these announcements which is pointing to a vastly diminished role of the state in the future.

    Certainly the theory goes that retrenchment is politically very difficult to achieve mainly because of our expectations so removing, or lowering these would leave the way open to a future which I find quite scary too