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.