Friday, 29 August 2008

She works hard for the money

Really cool iron

Like the proverbial pile of ironing (am not sure there is a proverb about ironing but there should be -Two piles of ironing will only gather moss if you hide it in the bushes? so Phyllis Diller's 'I'm eighteen years behind in my ironing' will do here), I have a backlog of posts on current affairs which haven't quite made it unwrinkled yet and will be out of fashion by the time I get round to them.

See, the problem is trying to combine caring and blogging.

And if we accept blogging as a metaphor for reflecting on and participating in life (though some, as in the phrase 'get a life', might disagree here) as opposed to the mere surviving of it then you can see there might be a problem. I think esteemed and ancient philosphers may have made a distinction between animals and humans here.

I notice this morning on the news the plight of carers was again highlighted.

The problems for carers are two/mani-fold (vague ironing pun there!). Enough breaks' support to enable paid work or to have a life for those who want to and sufficient financial support for those who cannot 'work', though believe you me, caring 24/7 is work enough.

Carer's Allowance, supposedly an 'income replacement' benefit, at £50.55 for a minimum 35 hours caring per week, works out at £1.44 per hour though many carers do way more ...if you count the 24/7 many family carers work that's 30p, metric money, an hour. Who would work for that? If that's an income replacement benefit I will eat an incontinence pad!

Of course, we do it for love. Although, don't count on it. This assumption, or other related assumptions, were pushed too far in the cases of Helen Rogan, Wendolyn Markcrow, the Ainscows and Alison Davies. Barbara Pointon's gin bottles give a glimpse into carers coping strategies.

It is not being melodramatic to suggest that if I hear about one more carer driven to these extremes I will think of proposing a war memorial, perhaps on the government petition site if not on some actual piece of real estate, for those who lost their lives, physically, mentally or metaphorically, in the struggle to care. 6 million carers might sign it. That would warrant a response over and above the 250 interested individuals required and far exceeds the neurotic financial/political disposition of 3 million car owners who signed a petition against road pricing or summat which wasn't even an actualité.

In other industries people who are injured from occupational hazards are either subject to compensation awards (though may have to fight a protracted battle) which are set at such a level as to deter such compensation awards or health and safety measures of similar intent are put in place.

So we care and we expose ourselves to these dangers.

On the financial level, love goes only so far as y'know one has to live and pay one's bills. Imagine going to the energy company or the supermarket and offering to pay them substantially less than you owe them but insisting you worked really hard for the money and that out of love for you and respect and acknowledgement for the saintly job you do they should accept what you are offering them even if it falls far short of the value of the goods you need to purchase.

Seems to me there is a clash of values here. We laud voluntary action and family care but we live in a society based on money exchange. Everything we need to live must be paid for either directly from our own private money or collectively through the taxes we pay. Each hour you work you get paid for and then you are able to buy the stuff, like food and shelter, to live. But care provided in the family is done for free, or for love whichever term you prefer. So while you are working for free you forego purchasing power to live. The more you work for free the less stuff you can buy to live. Granted, life is not lived by stuff alone.

While we must be wary of where we push the distorting (if we value such notions as 'love', 'care', 'voluntary' etc) influence of the cash nexus how are those who do live a life which requires time to be given up to providing free care out of love, to live and pay their bills? Its a long-standing dilemma and one which is not sufficiently addressed, at least not in these terms.

The government to its credit has put some new money into short break services or is in the process of doing so both for adults in the Carers Grant and in the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme.

I fully accept that the government is beseeched by special pleadings from all sides, not least from businesses and rich folk who reckon they will flee the country if they are taxed to pay for less productive/non-productive mad-cap schemes which might not turn a profit.

With advances in health care and all the other things which contribute to disabled and older people living and living longer there are questions to be asked about what economic growth, GDP and capitalism is for. Is it an end in itself or is it for something?


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