Mutuality and movement : an exploration of self-help/mutual aid groups and their relationship to social policy
Since the 1970s all of the available literature suggested that the UK, in common with Europe, North America and Scandinavia, had seen significant growth of single issue self-help/mutual aid groups related to health and social care issues. Yet in the UK there appeared to be no real body of academic interest nor any sustained national policy initiatives. The aim of the study was therefore to enhance an understanding of the relationship of these self-help/mutual aid groups to UK social policy. The study was constructed in two parts. Part One, a historical study critically appraised the way in which the state appeared to have viewed and responded to various manifestations of self help/mutual aid, both pre- and post- the welfare state. Part Two, a case-study of two UK grassroots self-help/mutual aid groups explored members' viewpoints, their reasons for joining, benefits derived and the impact they felt it has had on their lives and their relations with professionals and wider `political' forums. The result of the study suggests a fundamental reframing of the relationship between self-help/mutual aid and the state is required at both a conceptual and practical level by UK policy makers and academics. This would acknowledge: that contemporary self-help/mutual aid groups are part of the broader tradition of voluntary action in the third sector, self-help/mutual aid's unique contribution in terms of social relations, process and knowledge; its difference from philanthropy/formal voluntary sector and therefore distinct characteristics and relations with the-state; and contemporary health and social care groups' potential dual identity with communities of interest and geographic communities and their relationship to and distinction from the contemporary service user and carer movements. 116, findings have implications for policy related to participation (citizen and health), social capital and citizenship.