The social and political construction of care : community care policy and the 'private' carer
This thesis presents a retrospective critique of the social and political construction of 'informal care' within community care policy from the period of the late 1970s to the mid 1990s. The thesis considers the question of the degree of 'choice' available to informal carers to say 'no' to caring, or aspects of caring, within the reforms' positioning of informal care as the first line of support for adult dependants. The critique focuses on subjectivity, difference, agency and choice. A theoretical and methodological synthesis is developed between feminist post-structuralism, feminist critiques of mainstream social policy, and feminist theory and research, within which a qualitative in-depth interview study with informal carers is situated. The critique is then expanded through the development of a 'Q' Methodology study with a larger cohort of informal carers. The research identified gendered generational differences between the carers, and a 'burden' of care imposed as an outcome of consecutive governments' attempts to residualise welfare. The older carers' levels of agency and choice were severely curtailed. However, the younger female carers were more able to resist the drive of the community care reforms, their counter discourses being based on a new emergent notion of 'rights'. The direction of community care policy was found to be out of step with how the carers within this study perceived their responsibilities and 'obligations'. The thesis argues that whilst post-modernism may have constrained the capacity of governments and reconstituted our understanding of 'care', it has not done so to the extent that we are no longer prepared to make demands for 'care' from and by the state.