Cash-for-care policies impacting on user-careworker relationships
Department of Sociology University of Bergen Bergen, Norway
This paper explores how different cash-for-care systems within different socio-political systems impact on the kind of relationships that develop between the cash-for-care receiver and the care worker. This new social policy termed cash-for-care has recently been introduced in many European countries. The policy allows local authorities to pay people who are assessed as eligible for social services cash instead of care and they can then employ their own care workers. The paper's discussion will be based on a small-scale qualitative in-depth study of experiences of cash-for-care in everyday life within two different cash-for-care systems: the UK, representing a liberal welfare regime and Norway representing a social democratic welfare regime. In both these countries the majority of users so far consist of physically disabled people while the majority of the care workers consist of unqualified women. While, traditionally, the policies of social services have produced paternalistic professional-client relationships the new cash-for-care policy deeply challenges this kind of relationship by empowering the previously traditional non-participating dependent role of the welfare client. Research in this area has so far mainly been directed at the users while only limited attention has been paid to the relationships developed from this new policy. The cross-national UK-Norway study reveals the development of three different kinds of relationships: an emotional solidarity-oriented relationship in which reciprocal understanding and sympathy between members of two social subordinated groups (disabled people and care workers) are central aspects, a professional relationship based on regulated working conditions and agreements, and a master-servant relationship in which the user fully controls, directs and subordinates the care worker. The study suggests that the structural organisation of the Norwegian cash-for-care model gives an impetus to the professional relationship while the UK's organisation rather directs the relationships towards either emotional solidarity or exploitation. In the European cash-for-care debate this study points at the need to explore further the different relationships produced by different ways of implementing cash-for-care systems.