Social Policy and Personal Life: Changes in State, Family and Community in the Support of Informal Care

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Recent developments in the provision of ongoing care have served to highlight the significance of informal caregiving for social policy, making private households the preferred site for the exercise of public responsibility for many of the most vulnerable and dependent citizens. We discuss two contemporary developments challenging policies which support informal caregiving. One is the post-industrial transformation of employment, which while supporting continued growth in female labour force participation is also reshaping the hours of work and stability of employment of women and men. A second concerns demands for policies which are responsive to social difference and distinctive values of care in communities of shared sexual, ethnic and religious identity. With these developments in mind, the paper explores the options for policy and briefly considers how these options might be implemented. Three approaches are canvassed: the enforcement of family responsibility through the withdrawal of public assistance; the relief of caregiving responsibilities by provision of alternative forms of support; and the development of a ‘shared care’ approach, based on a ‘partnership’ between the state, community and family. The paper suggests that while the third option is likely to prove the most viable and acceptable, it is necessary to ensure that alternatives to reliance on informal care are not neglected.
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Shaver, Sheila
Fine, Michael
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