Outsourcing care


'Outsourcing care', by Chris JohnstonThe economic crisis has presented us with many known unknowns. One of these is that the business models sustaining the care professions in our society are unlikely to hold up.

We have already seen the collapse of ABC Learning Centres, Australia's largest child care provider. The costs associated with aged care are so high that it is certain many of the businesses running aged care services will be subject to intense financial pressure, and some may go under.

The Victorian bushfires forced people to think about the costs and values associated with living in the bush. It has become obvious that changes are necessary, and that perhaps humans should not live in areas prone to fires. The financial meltdown will in turn make us consider how we provide care for those close to us, at vulnerable stages of their lives, and how, and indeed whether, we should pay for it.

In this month's Faith Doing Justice newsletter, Sandie Cornish asks what happens to us when we commodify solidarity and respect for human dignity by outsourcing care. Her assumption is that care is something that is best done at home, but that various mitigating factors often require us to purchase human care as products and services in the marketplace.

She suggests that delegating our commitment to protecting and promoting the wellbeing of others 'flies in the face of the principle of solidarity, which ... encourages us to imagine ourselves in the place of others'.

Her point is that the very humanity of those 'excused' from caring is diminished. Many of us go to work in battery hen style so that we can afford to have our children cared for in child care centres, which also commodify them. That is a caricature, but it does make us wonder whether life is passing us by.

Correspondingly, many of us consider our lives incomplete if our professional lives are disrupted or cut short by the duty of care for family members. Work is invariably an important part of who we are.

The principle that causes us to scrutinise the outsourcing of care could be used as an excuse for the Federal Government to do nothing in the wake of the ABC Learning Centres collapse, and to ignore the need for adequate funds for professional aged care, especially with the impending retirement of baby boomers.

However the opposite is true. What human dignity requires more than anything else is the freedom for individuals and their loved ones to choose what together makes them more human.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.



Topic tags: abc learning centres, outsourcing care, aged care, child care, faith doing justice, sandie cornish



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Existing comments

I live in a bushy acreage area in outer Brisbane and I love it so much I'm prepared to risk it, with some care. Most of all, I have adequate insurance, though it is a big slice of my single home-owner pension. I would still need a lot of support in a crisis, but NOT to rebuild. That is asking too much.
Marjorie | 23 March 2009

Actually, I don't believe that care is always best done at home.

My point was the importance of the status of all workers and persons requiring care as persons - subjects in their own right, not objects, and certainly more than providers or consumers of caring services.

It is the reductionist market attitude to this important work that I am questioning, not the legitimacy of paying people to help us to care for others.

There is, of course, a social responsibility to ensure that everyone receives the care they need. It doesn't follow that we don't have personal resonsibility to see that this is done appropriately. Solidarity leads us to a committment to the common good.

Sandie Cornish | 23 March 2009

I hope Sandi Cornish's comments receive wide publicity. We really do need to rethink the whole matter of the way in which we commodify solidarity, outsource care and also the dehumanise working conditions many endure in order to be able to finance care for their children, disabled, ill and old.
Janet | 23 March 2009

Also sobering to reflect on how professionalising care can actually diminish the caring professional's capacity as a caring person.
Teachers who cannot help their own children, etc, etc...

I'm all for recognising carers as professionals not altruists. But I do wonder about some of the long term costs.
Margaret | 23 March 2009

The question I had running through my head as I read this editorial was: what is the quality of relationship here? Perhaps relationally based caring is better than market based caring?

In my experience not-for-profit organisations better maintain the dignity of relationship between carer and caree. Often these organisations recognise that the quality of the relational system of the organisation is more important than money itself.

Solidarity often asks the carer to risk a relationship that is one of equal personhood with the caree. This is a challenge at the best of times. However in a work environment that does not value the dignity of it's relational 'structure', the temptation to compromise this solidarity can be acted upon - sometimes with the justification of efficiency.
Andrew McAlister | 23 March 2009


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