No Room at the Inn? Older LGBT individuals’ unmet housing needs

Stonewall Housing, in conjunction with Age UK, Opening Doors London and Rainbow Hamlets, is holding a major Older LGBT Housing conference on 18th June 2014. Entitled ‘Bona Latties’ (Polari for Good Housing) it aims to give voice to older LGBT individuals’ housing wants and needs and create a space to discuss them with providers. Older LGBT unmet housing needs are a problem in the following ways:

  • Mainstream housing provision for older people is perceived as heteronormative, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic(1)(2)(3);
  • There is a lack of specialist housing, i.e. housing run for older LGBT individuals, by LGBT individuals (4)(5)(6);
  • There is a lack of specific housing choices for older LGBT, e.g. those who want gender specific housing (e.g. men/women only), which many older individuals, especially older lesbians, want (7). It’s an outdated ‘one size fits all’ (8) approach;
  • There is a lack of specialist domiciliary care for older LGBT people, with the exception of Pride in Care UK. Many older lesbians and gay men in particular re-closet themselves in their own homes, for fear of prejudice from carers (9);
  • There is a lack of services to support older LGBT in setting up housing cooperatives where they provide one another with reciprocal support and/or buy in care which is respectful of, and meets, their needs.

As a result of these unmet needs, older LGBT individuals are left with a stark choice: ‘the prospect either of living alone without support or having to enter [sheltered housing and] care homes which will not meet their needs.’ (10) We say ‘it gets better’ to younger LGBT people. And for many that may be true. But the sad the truth is that in older age it gets worse. As much as we should address the needs of LGBT youth, we also need to address the needs of older LGBT individuals as well. Schools are a problem for LGBT youth. Sheltered housing and care homes are a problem for LGBT older people. We must tackle both.

References

(1) Ward, R., Pugh, S. and Price, E. (2010) Don’t look back? Improving health and social care service delivery for older LGB users. London: EHRC;
(2) Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., et al (2013) ‘Physical and Mental Health of Transgender Older Adults: An At-Risk and Underserved Population.The Gerontologist doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt021First published online: March 27, 2013;
(3) Jones, R. (2010) ‘Troubles with bisexuality in health and social care.’ In Jones, Rebecca L. and Ward, Richard (eds) LGBT Issues: Looking beyond Categories. Policy and Practice in Health and Social Care, pp 42-55, Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press.
(4) Musingarimi, Primrose (2008). Housing Issues Affecting Older Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People in the UK: A policy brief. London: The International Longevity Centre – UK (ILCUK)
(5) Carr, S. and Ross, P. (2013) Assessing current and future housing and support options for older LGB people. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
(6) LGBT Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE) (2012) Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice. New York: Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders and National Center for Transgender Equality.
(7) Westwood, S. (submitted): ‘“We see it as being Heterosexualised, being put into a Care Home”: Residential care concerns and preferences of ageing sexual minorities.’ Ageing and Society.
(8) Eaglesham, Phil (2010) ‘The Policy Maze and LGBT Issues: Does One Size Fit All?’, in R. Jones & R. Ward (eds) LGBT Issues: Looking Beyond Categories, pp 1-15. Edinburgh: Dunedin.
(9) Knocker, S. (2012) Perspectives on ageing lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. London: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
(10) Guasp, A. (2011) Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in later life. London: Stonewall.

 

Condemned as a ‘Typical’ Man?

By Robin Hadley

A few moths ago, I attended a seminar on infertility treatment. The audience included those involved in infertility treatment, academics, practitioners, and interested others. The complexities surrounding infertility treatment are vast and range from the very intimate and personal to legalities at national and international level. Conducting research in such a sensitive area is fraught with difficulties and the speakers were all very aware of the ethical implications of their research and practice. I was particularly interested in the researchers’ experience of accessing and interviewing men. The general view in infertility studies has been that men are not interested in participating in research, and many studies are heavily weighted with female respondents. As one researcher described her many efforts to interview the male partner of a couple, a ripple of sympathetic recognition of her struggle arose from the audience. ‘Typical man’ seemed to be the collective verdict, mine included. As I reflected back on the day I returned to that incident. The audience reaction was one of sympathy for the researcher and I wondered if that man did not also deserve some empathy. I know from my own research that many men assume that they will be fathers and that that knowledge is so embedded that it is not discussed. The assumption expressed has been that one would leave school, get a job/go to university/ get a job, find a partner, find accommodation, have children. That being the case I tried to put myself in that man’s position: the assumed ‘natural’ event had not happened. How would I feel? Shocked to the very core? I think so. Perhaps I had been brought up not to show feelings and instead, to show control – ‘mastery’ – through actions and/or rationality. In which case my reactions may include striving to balance things up by working and playing harder, or not becoming involved. Being raised in an environment where I am not expected to express emotions, I possibly, do not have the confidence or vocabulary to verbalise my emotional state. Here are my musings on what may have been ‘going on’ if I was that unwilling participant, “So, here I am, not fulfilling the role I expected to – and that others seem to achieve with ease – and I cannot make it right. There is only one person I can talk to and that is my partner but it is worse for her and the one thing I can be is strong for her. Then there is this University researcher who wants to have a talk. She’s talked to my partner, and wants to talk to us both. My partner thinks it will do me good. I don’t know how to express these feelings inside without bursting. I want to support my partner, part of me thinks it would be good to release the emotions but I can’t risk overwhelming her in the way I am sometimes overwhelmed. I’ll say I’ll do it and then see.”
If the participant’s thoughts and feelings were similar to the above then it is understandable why he was ambivalent about being interviewed.

Infertility has been seen as a form of complex bereavement consisting of multiple loses (Adler, 1991; Lechner et al., 2007) with levels of distress in women recorded as high as those suffering from serious medical conditions (Domar et al., 1992; Domar et al., 1993). However, recent research shows that, post infertility treatment, men who did not become fathers suffered poorer mental health than those who had become fathers (Fisher et al., 2010). In their conclusions Fisher et al (p.6) state ‘…that stereotypes that infertile men conflate fertility and masculinity, are less distressed than women about potential loss of parenthood, and adjust more readily to childlessness appear inaccurate.’ Men may or may not be ‘typical’ by choice but there are many social factors that influence their behavior and how their behavior is perceived. The belief that men are not interested in taking part in research, and their absence ‘condemned to be meaningful’ (Lloyd, 1996: p.451), reflects a lack of insight by the research community. I feel I must stress here these are my own reflections based on my research on involuntarily childless men and not a particular person or persons.

Useful websites
Infertility Network UK: http://www.infertilitynetworkuk.com
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/index.html
Mensfe: http://www.mensfe.net

References
Adler, N. E. (1991). Forward. In Stanton, A. L. & Dunkel-Schetter, C. (Eds.), Infertility: Perspectives from Stress and Coping Research (pp. vii-ix). Plenum Press: New York.
Domar, A., Broome, A., Zuttermeister, P. C., Seibel, M. & Friedman, R. (1992). The prevalence and predictability of depression in infertile women. Fertility and Sterility, 58, 1158-1163.
Domar, A. D., Zuttermeister, P. C. & Friedman, R. (1993). The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 14(Special issue), 45-52.
Fisher, J. R. W., Baker, G. H. W. & Hammarberg, K. (2010). Long-term health, well-being, life satisfaction, and attitudes toward parenthood in men diagnosed as infertile: challenges to gender stereotypes and implications for practice. Fertility and Sterility, 94(2), 574-580.
Lechner, L., Bolman, C. & Van Dalen, A. (2007). Definite involuntary childlessness: associations between coping, social support and psychological distress. Hum. Reprod., 22(1), 288-294.
Lloyd, M. (1996). Condemned to be meaningful: Non-response in studies of men and infertility. Sociology of Health & Illness, 18(4), 433-454.

When Caring Goes Wrong: Rehoming Unowned Dogs

By Marie Fox

Those of us who share our lives with dogs know that interspecies relationships are an important and mutually enriching basis for caring practices, yet it is also evident that dogs are often victims of a complete lack of care. These extremes of care are vividly captured in the contrast between the casual cruelty of the 27 year old trainee solicitor sentenced to 18 weeks in prison last month for leaving her boxer dog to starve in a locked kitchen, and the tenacity with which homeless people cling to their relationship with their dogs notwithstanding the difficulties this may pose to them in finding a home. Paradoxical attitudes also characterise media responses to dogs. At the same time that television programmes celebrate The Wonder of Dogs, newspaper reports disproportionately depict dogs as out of control weapons or feral killers. In a familiar litany of reporting of dog attacks on humans, common features are a focus on breed, a desire to impose responsibility and a failure to address the root causes of our problematic relationship with dogs. Over the last few months this is evident in accounts in February 2014 of dog attacks in Blackburn, where an eleven month old girl, Ava-Jane Corless, was savaged as she slept in her bed by an American pit bull type dog owned by her mother’s boyfriend, in Carmarthenshire where Eliza-Mae Mullane, a six day old girl, died having being pulled from her pram and bitten by her family’s Alaskan Malamute who had been acquired from someone in a pub, and in Lincolnshire where in March another pit bull type attacked a 22 year old woman walking near an old quarry.

Malamutes and bull breeds figure disproportionately amongst the sheer numbers of unwanted dogs that are stretching the resources of local authorities, charities and dog rescues. The 2013 Annual Stray Dogs Survey by Dogs Trust reveals that 111,986 stray and abandoned dogs were picked up across the UK over the last 12 months, equating to 307 stray dogs being found every day. Many are bull breeds, victims of a process of media stereotyping fuelled by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act which in categorising pit bull terriers as dangerous dogs, has served to make all bull breeds perversely attractive to the wrong sort of owner. One particularly tragic case highlights the potential for well intentioned and caring actions to go wrong in the world of dog rescue. In November 2013 four year old Lexi Branson died after being mauled by her family’s dog Mulan. According to newspaper reports Lexi’s mother, Jody Hudson, fatally stabbed the dog in a frantic attempt to save her daughter when he attacked her on the floor of the lounge in their flat. It transpired that Mulan was an American bulldog type who had been adopted by Lexi’s mother in August 2013 from a Leicestershire rehoming centre. The rehoming reportedly took place after she had seen a picture of the dog in the rehoming section of the rescue’s facebook page. A friend of Ms Hudson reported that the dog had a soft nature and that Ms Hudson had been told he was safe around children. The rescue declined to comment. In the absence of all the facts it is important not to judge actions, as anyone involved in dog rescue will testify.

I volunteer with one of the many small dog rescues struggling to cope with Britain’s unwanted dogs. We work closely with a local authority pound in the North West of England to provide emergency kennel space for dogs who have not been reclaimed, rehomed or offered a rescue space within seven days. At this point they can lawfully be humanely destroyed under s 149 Environmental Protection Act 1990. A key aim of organisations like ours is to place our dogs with bigger and better resourced rescues. However, typically, due to their fear of being overrun with too many unwanted breeds, it falls to smaller rescues to rehome bull breeds – mostly Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses. We homecheck for our dogs as carefully as possible, requiring prospective owners to complete forms, submit to a home visit, visit the dog in kennels and ensure that dogs are neutered and vaccinated prior to rehoming while dogs are not placed in a home with children under 10 years old. However a consequence of such conditions is that we lose out on good potential homes and in many cases prospective adopters will simply buy a puppy or adopt from a rescue too stretched to impose such conditions. And notwithstanding the care taken and great joy of waving a dog off to a new home, the process is inevitably accompanied with apprehension that things may go wrong, given the difficulties of adequately assessing dogs in a kennel environment.

However in the absence of the full story in most of these cases there are nevertheless a number of conclusions we can draw about media reporting and the reaction it has provoked which serve to highlight our flawed thinking about dogs. Initial media reports of the Branson case pictured Lexi with her uncle’s Dogue de Bordeaux who was erroneously deemed responsible for the attack and wrongly described as a French mastiff. The upshot was that breed specific rescues were reported in dogworld as having been inundated with calls from concerned owners wishing to give up their dogs. When pictures of Mulan were published, the immediate response of bull dog rescues was to deny that Mulan was a ‘British bulldog’, with an editorial in dogworld opining that “After some initial confusion, the dog responsible for this incident is now referred to as a bulldog even though it bears little resemblance to the pedigree Bulldogs bred in this country.” Such responses strike me as reflecting the manifold failures of social attitudes including UK law which casts dogs as disposable commodities and indiscriminately stigmatises certain dogs purely on the basis of their morphology or breed type. Media narratives which reify this focus on breed, and implicitly criticise the irresponsibility of a mother in choosing to allow into her home a dog of uncertain pedigree and origin, or rescues which somehow failed in an ill-defined area, obscure the root causes of indiscriminate breeding which produces unhealthy or ill socialised puppies, dangerous dogs legislation which has compounded the problems of unwanted and often traumatised bull breeds and a legal strategy of ascribing responsibility for stray and unwanted dogs to local authorities which are already struggling to fulfill their core responsibilities and are ill equipped to cope with the complexities of dealing with stray and dangerous dogs. Against this backdrop blaming a mother for her caring action in adopting a dog in need of a home, a not for profit organization struggling to fill the gaps in state provision or even the dog himself is manifestly ill conceived. Until our outdated and paradoxical legal attitudes to dogs are tackled, tragedies such as these unfortunately seem unavoidable, however much well intentioned individuals and dog rescues strive to care.

Counting on Marilyn Waring: Valuing care, housework, subsistence production and Nature

by Margunn Bjørnholt

 In a recent blog-post Donatella Alessandrini discussed the ”Wages for housework” campaign, referring to its main activists, among them Selma James. It seems that, when struggling to solve the problem of valuation of care and subsistence work, there is much to learn by revisiting the work and good thinking of feminist pioneers decades ago. I have recently had the pleasure to revisit another pioneer, Marilyn Waring and her critique of the system of national accounts in Counting for nothing/If women counted, originally published in 1988.

With the late Professor Ailsa McKay, I have co-edited an anthology on the impact and resonance of Waring’s groundbreaking work a quarter- century later. The resulting collected volume, Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, published by Demeter Press, Canada, March 2014, maps new advances in theories and practices in feminist economics and the valuation of women, care and nature since Marilyn Waring’s Counting for nothing. The breadth and range of topics and perspectives covered in the anthology highlights the impact and endurance of Waring’s work, in the shaping of the discipline of feminist economics and in influencing women’s lives across the globe. In the foreword to the collection Professor of economics Julie A. Nelson, University of Massachussetts, Boston, points out how Marilyn Waring’s If Women counted ”encouraged and influenced a wide range of work on ways, both numerical and otherwise, of valuing, preserving, and rewarding the work of care that sustains our lives”. At the same time, Waring’s original critique of the system of national accounts for ignoring the value of care and subsistence work is still sadly relevant. Despite the development of feminist economics as a field of academic research and activism over the past decades, economic policies are still informed by economic theory and models that ignore the value and importance of care and that of Nature. The book is a contribution to the continued struggle for valuing care as well as an attempt to bring the field forward.

The publication of the book sadly coincided with the death of my co-editor, Ailsa McKay, who passed away, far too early, at the age of 50, on 5.March. Ailsa was herself a pioneer in feminist economics. She was Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University, and a founding member of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group. She combined her role as a renown academic and a leading authority on gender budget analysis with a strong community involvement for change. She has had a lasting impact on the field of feminist economics and the struggle for valuing care.

As an irony of fate, illustrating the persistent and recurring devaluation of care and motherhood, our publisher, Demeter Press, now struggles to stay in business, after being denied a much needed and anticipated government publishing grant. The argument was that its focus on mothering and motherhood was a liability, and that it needed to broaden its focus. Demeter Press has just launched a fundraising campaign. Hopefully many will support the only publishing house dedicated to publishing on motherhood and mothering.

‘Counting the Costs? Resources, Austerity and Older LGBT People’

The ‘Minding the Knowledge Gap’ ESRC funded seminar series held its fourth seminar at the University of Surrey last week. This seminar, called ‘Counting the Costs? Resources, Austerity and Older LGBT People’ addressed the material, financial and social resource implications of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) ageing, particularly in times of austerity. It was well-attended by participants from a range of backgrounds: LGBT individuals (in all their diversity, including some in older age); advocates and activists; academics; social policy makers; and the police. There were two speakers. Dr Noah Uhrig, from the Institute for Social & Economic Research, University of Essex, gave a fascinating talk on ‘Poverty and Material Well-being of LGBT elders’, somehow managing to make some very complicated statistic not only accessible but also enjoyable. Audience members gazed in avid fascinating and still wanted more at the end. The second speaker, Dr Martin Mitchell, NatCen Social Research presented on ‘Not just “a nice thing to do”: Marginalisation and hardship for LGBT older people in the context of austerity cuts.’

Noah spoke of recent research project on poverty and sexual orientation (constrained by the usual problems with representative sampling of a ‘hidden population’) which suggested significant material differences in later life for LGB individuals compared with heterosexual individuals, and between one another. A key feature was the suggestion that older lesbians were materially advantaged compared with both older heterosexual individuals and older gay men. Noah’s data – which he bravely presented, anticipating the response it would meet – were, not surprisingly, hotly contested by many of the lesbian members of the audience. They found the idea of older lesbian material advantage counter-intuitive. Discussions raised issues of: women’s relative lower earnings to men; women’s greater representation in (lower paid) public services work, especially care work; women (including lesbians!) taking time out of work to have children, and to perform other informal unpaid care work (including for parents and grandchildren); women being much more likely to be in part-time paid work (rather than full-time work) while also performing unpaid informal care work (1). Noah acknowledged the tensions provoked by the data, and plans on conducting further analyses. We look forward to hearing more!

Martin then spoke of the double-edged sword of austerity cuts. Older LGBT individuals are more likely to need support from those public and voluntary sector services (health and social care, informal and formal social support) which are currently subjected to drastic cuts in funding (2). Those cuts in services impose increased pressures on an already pressured cluster of minoritised individuals, meaning they have a greater need for services, at the very time when there are fewer services available. Lack of material and social resources have profound implications for the well-being of older LGBT individuals (3) (4).

Afternoon discussions returned to the issue of gender (again unsurprisingly) and to the need to continuously unpack the ‘LGBT’ acronym (5), to appreciate how older lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, and trans individuals are particularly affected by the material and social resource implications of later life. The plight of the Opening Doors London project, supporting 1,000 older LGBT individuals in the London area, and which has lost all of its funding, highlighted the lived realities of the implications of austerity cuts. Towards the end of the day two distinct responses to resourcing projects for older LGBT in later life: the neoliberal model of private and national state engagement; a more localist, communitarian approach involving local LGBT groups and local government. It was mentioned that in Australia and some parts of the USA, older LGBT have been designated a ‘special needs group’ (with all the complications of such a categorization) and as such are eligible for state funding for local projects.

Much food for thought, and much work to be done, but all-in-all, it was a stimulating and thought-provoking day, made so by the contributions of all who attended.

(1)    Arber, Sara (2006) ‘Gender and Later Life: Change, Choice and Constraints’. In J. Vincent, C. Phillipson and M. Downs (eds) The Futures of Old Age, pp. 54-61,London: Sage.

(2)     King, Andrew (2013) ‘Prepare for Impact? Reflecting on Knowledge Exchange Work to Improve Services for Older LGBT People in Times of Austerity.’ Social Policy and Society / FirstView Article / November 2013, pp 1 – 13 DOI: 10.1017/S1474746413000523, Published online: 19 November 2013

(3)    Fredriksen-Goldsen, et al (2013a) ‘Physical and Mental Health of Transgender Older Adults: An At-Risk and Underserved Population.’ The Gerontologist doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt021First published online: March 27, 2013

(4)    Fredriksen-Goldsen, Karen I., et al. (2013b). ‘The physical and mental health of lesbian, gay male, and bisexual (LGB) older adults: the role of key health indicators and risk and protective factors.’  The Gerontologist, 53(4):664-675.

(5)    Ward, Richard, Rivers, Ian. and Sutherland, Mike (eds) (2012). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ageing: Biographical Approaches for Inclusive Care and Support.  London: Jessica Kingsley

 

 

 

‘Listening to care’ by Arooj Khan

It has taken me three months to finish reading Yasmin Gunaratnam’s most recent publication, Death and the Migrant -a collection of accounts of transnational dying and palliative care in English cities. It wasn’t overly long or complex, nor was I lacking in the time to devote to its reading. It took me three months to read a hundred and sixty one pages because every time I encountered a narrative from a care practitioner or a dying person, I also found myself reflecting on the time that I have not spent listening to those around me.

I can honestly say I cannot remember the last time I gave someone the justice of letting them speak without me interjecting. As Prue Chamberlayne has shown in her discussion of using biographical narrative methods with ‘Laura’, the manager of a homeless hostel, there are often long biographical trails behind those who work in the caring professions that can affect their capacity for ‘emotional thinking’ and listening to difficult stories.

Let me give you some background about myself – when I was six years old, teachers became increasingly frustrated with me not ‘doing as I was told’ and not learning at the same pace as other children in my class. It turned out that I had glue ear (a condition where your inner ear becomes filled with fluid), which stunted my listening and learning capabilities. Ever since then I have made a subconscious effort to make up for lost time.

I am the talker, the socialiser, the comedian, the anecdotal storyteller. It is because of these traits that I have fallen into a caring profession. I work with vulnerable people who are homeless and I try to provide them with support to maintain their independence and help them to develop and/or refine their life skills.

I cannot remember the last time that I was with a homeless person and just let them speak and tell me their stories. Any information that I tend to know about them is generally gleaned from case notes or instrumental questions that will help me to deal with their current problems.  I couldn’t really tell you what their life has been like and from their own personal perspective. I don’t know how they felt at the height of their troubles or what their most memorable life events are. I can’t say that in all my years of working in the charity world I have been privy to any poignant childhood memories that I have helped to elicit.

In the support work field, we are part of a paradigm of holistic care, which means that services make a point of taking the ‘whole person’ into account before making a diagnosis of what support and care can be offered. Having read Death and the Migrant, it seems to me that it is narratives and stories that are missing from my profession. If I listened wholeheartedly, unabashedly and sincerely, perhaps I could provide truly holistic support to those I want to help. This is more than suggesting the value of incorporating narrative skills and knowledge into the development of a package of care, it is also thinking about listening to stories as care. Might skills in eliciting and listening to the stories of others reconfigure the balance of complex emotional relationships between the listener/professional and storyteller in ways that validate the vulnerable ‘other’?

Excuse the cliché, but perhaps it is time for me to sit down and let someone else do the talking…

Arooj Khan is the Mentoring and Befriending Project Coordinator for Housing Justice. She is a Goldsmiths College postgraduate student with an interest in service delivery models for homeless individuals. She can be contacted via LinkedIn or at Housing Justice, 256 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UJ

Considering Age Relations in Research on Care

Rachel Barken

Concerns abound regarding the social, political, economic, and individual changes necessary to care for a growing population of older adults experiencing physical and cognitive decline.  These concerns are evident in academic scholarship, with a large body of research advancing theory and practice on caregiving and receiving in later life. Despite this focus on older adults, however, the ways age relations frame experiences of care are not clearly articulated. The concept of age relations, which owes much to the work of Toni Calasanti (e.g. Calasanti, 2003, 2006), considers the structured social relations that frame interactions among members of different age groups. Age is relational because one’s membership in an age group is defined in relation to other age groups, and because membership in these groups forms the basis for access to, or exclusion from, various rights and privileges. Inequalities among age groups intersect with other power relations associated with gender, class, and race/ethnicity. In this blog post I outline three ways theorizing age relations might move forward perspectives on later life care.

First, theorizing age relations helps to understand how care for older adults is conceptualized differently than care for people in other age groups. Feminists have long recognized that patriarchal conditions diminish the value of caring for ‘dependents,’ including children, disabled people, and older adults. But the devaluation of care work depends on the social status of those who are being cared for (Calasanti, 2006). The theory of age relations, with its emphasis on relational inequalities between and among members of different age groups, helps to explain why some forms of care are more highly valued than others. Because youth is regarded as a transitional status with such positive attributes as “ ‘hope’ or ‘future,’ ” (Calasanti, 2003, 208), childcare is often considered a generative task. By contrast care needs in later life are typically associated with physical decline, impairment, and weakness. These conditions present a permanent change in status and exclusion from previous activities rather than a temporary sick role from which one will emerge. Thus, older adults needing care are often viewed as a burden. The prevalence of debates regarding ways to minimize the economic and social costs of eldercare and the low status and of paid and unpaid caregiving for older adults are indicative of the inequalities among age groups that tend to disadvantage older adults and those caring for them.

Second, theorizing age relations brings into view the structured contexts that shape experiences of care. Social relations are structural in the sense that they frame people’s life course experiences and relationships with others. Theorizing age relations reminds us that the problems associated with later life cannot be solely attributed to physiological aging processes or to individual decisions made throughout the life course; rather, they emerge in socio-structural contexts.  For example common understandings and responses to age are embedded in policies guiding the distribution of pension incomes and spending on health and social care. These policies have a very real impact on older adults’ experiences of giving and receiving care.

Third, theorizing age relations gives insight on the intersecting relations of advantage and disadvantage—including class, age, gender, and race/ethnicity— that frame caregiving and receiving. These relations do not completely determine people’s life chances, but they do frame the contexts in which individuals act and interact (McMullin, 2000). An important difference between age relations and other forms of inequality is that aging is a universal experience. All people who live long enough to grow old will experience the marginalization associated with later life in an ageist society (Calasanti, 2003). The extent of this marginalization varies, though, as it intersects with class, gender, and race/ethnicity relations occurring throughout the life course. A framework that accounts for intersecting relations of inequality helps to explain, for example, older adults’ differential access to care and involvement in caring relationships.

Theorizing age relations has much to contribute to critical understandings of later life care. Debates regarding the relative influence of structure and agency, however, point to the potential limits of age relations. This concept recognizes that individuals hold the capacity to exert agency in the context of structured social relations, but primarily emphasizes the structural conditions that disadvantage older adults. This focus on disadvantage might inadvertently contribute to older people’s powerlessness. To avoid this risk, age relations must be theorized from the standpoint of older adults’ everyday, lived experiences (King, 2006). Theorizing age relations in research on older adults’ experiences of giving and receiving care can shed light on a private setting in which relations of dependency, power, and control between and among members of different age groups are worked out.

References:

Calasanti, T. M. (2003). Theorizing age relations. In S. Biggs, A. Lowenstein & J. Hendricks (Eds.), The need for theory: Critical approaches to social gerontology (pp. 199-218). Amityville, NY: Baywood.

Calasanti, T.M. (2006). Gender and old age: Lessons from spousal care. In T. M. Calasanti, & K. F. Slevin (Eds.), Age matters: Realigning feminist thinking (pp. 269-294). New York: Routledge.

King, N. (2006). The lengthening list of oppressions: Age relations and the feminist study of inequality. Age matters: Realigning feminist thinking (pp. 47-74). New York: Routledge.

McMullin, J. A. (2000). Diversity and the state of sociological aging theory. The Gerontologist, 40(5), 517-530.

 

 

 

 

The Right to Assistance – The Public Duty to Assist by Jane Krishnadas

The Hands of the CLOCK; Rights as the Intersections

Since the Legal Aid Sentencing Punishment and Offenders Act, 2012 – ‘The Government’s evisceration of Legal Aid leaves those of us involved in the court system feeling a bit like the  inhabitants of an island about to be hit by a tsunami… (Saunders, The Lawyer, 2013).  Having lived, worked and researched in a post-disaster situation, the comparison may seem extreme. However, one year after LASPO, the collaborative efforts of the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele, (CLOCK), have been just in time to assist more than 100 litigants a month facing the loss of livelihood, property or families, which replicated across the UK reaches the disaster scales of 100,000’s of people.

Theoretically, the comparison of the post-disaster sites lies in Arendt’s framework of diminished agency and a declining state (The Human Condition), within which I’ve explored the role of rights within different ‘Scales of Justice’ (Fraser), as a transformative rights strategy; reflecting voices, revaluing resources and relocating sites of justice; (Rights as the Intersections, A Transformative Methodology).

CLOCK

CLOCK Logo

The CLOCK logo presents a visual and practical blueprint of the interrelation of rights and duties within the local justice system (see CLOCK partner leaflet). The Community Legal Outreach Collaboration, Keele (CLOCK) was formed as an umbrella of professional public, private and third sector organisations, to develop a new role ‘the Community Legal Companion’, premised upon the McKenzie Friend principles,  to safeguard the litigant- in-person’s rights to assistance and access to legally-aided and affordable legal services, within the shared commitment to access to justice.

The Community Legal Companion is centred within CLOCK, reflecting Crenshaw’s principle ‘that those concerned with alleviating discrimination’ should begin with ‘addressing the needs and problems of those who are most disadvantaged… for which placing those who are currently marginalised in the centre is the most effective way to resist efforts to compartmentalise experiences’ (‘Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Class’, Crenshaw, 1989; 167).

However the Legal Companion presents a different starting point to Martha Fineman’s ‘Vulnerable Subject’ (2008). The Legal Companion is an assistant to the legal subject, premised upon the right to reasonable assistance which is embedded within the McKenzie Friend Practice Guidance, July 2010. The text clearly affirms ‘The Right to Reasonable Assistance’. Critically the right of assistance is the right of the litigant. It is not a right of the gratuitous, commercial or politically motivated McKenzie Friend.

The Legal Companion cannot act as an agent for the individual and has no authority to act or speak or advise in any way on behalf of the individual. The litigant’s voice therefore remains their own, as does their actions and decisions- in the words of a litigant, the legal companion is ‘My Calm in the Storm’ (BBC Radio Stoke Discusses Legal Aid and CLOCK).

It is the duty of the court to grant the right of assistance, or provide sufficient reasons why the litigant should not receive assistance. The decision of the court is based upon procedural fairness, the right to a fair trial and the efficient administration of justice. The Chair of the Civil Justice Council Working Party on Access to Justice for litigants-in-person states ‘It is impossible to overstate how important it is for people to have access to justice in a free society”, and calls for ‘concerted leadership to drive collaboration’ (Civil Justice Council Calls for Action).

The CLOCK dial represents a collaborative shared duty to the right of assistance. The Courts provide training on the court forms for suspending evictions, debt, divorce and Children Act applications. The Police and CPS provide training on bridging the civil and criminal processes. The Charitable organisations, circle the CLOCK, providing supporting evidence for legal aid applications, and holistic support; the first quartile, housing and complex needs, Brighter Futures, ASPIRE; the second, family relations, YMCA Family Services, Arch, Savana, Voices of Experience;  the third, community safety, Savana and the fourth, welfare and discrimination, Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau, SNCAB. The inner circle of the partner law firms Nowell Meller, Salmons, Young and Co, Lichfield Reynolds and colleagues within the North Staffordshire Law Society‎, and Regent Chambers and Rowchester Chambers,  ensure the companion acts within the professional duty to refer to mediation, legally-aided and affordable legal services. (See: Law Society Litigant in Person, Practice Note; and Bar Society: Guide to Representing yourself in Court).

The legal companion, provides a holding hand, the hands of the clock, to pivot the range of public, private and third sector services, which intersect the complex nature of shattered lives (see Intersectionality and Beyond) for which legal companions have assisted clients to trace multiple legal pathways through criminal, civil, welfare, immigration and domestic violence services (BBC News, Keele students help legal aid gap).

The daily presence of the legal companions in the court, presents a mechanism to draw together evidence to satisfy legal aid criteria, monitor the scope and impact of LASPO on the local community and highlight cases to challenge the fairness of s.10, LASPO, as recommended in the R.1, R.3, and R.4, of the Low Commission Report, Jan 2014.

The hands of the CLOCK  reached the hour, when the Head of Legal Aid visited the domestic violence refuge and listened to ‘Voices of Experience’, to contribute their perspectives on access to legal aid to the  Parliamentary Debate on Baroness Scotland’s Civil Motion to Regret (Head of Legal Aid Commends Legal Companion CLOCK initiative, as “a really positive initiative and could provide a model for similar programmes across the country”).

The endorsement of CLOCK as: an ‘imaginative scheme’ from the Stoke-on-Trent Judiciary; ‘a strategic development in legal education’ (the HEA, Strategic Summit, 2014); an ‘excellent service which epitomises the practical implementation of several of the Working Party’s recommendations’, (Civil Justice Council) and a case study of ‘good practice’ within the Legal Services Consumer Panel Fact Finding Visit, has secured the interest for wider collaboration from Birmingham, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Courts and Law Schools.

CLOCK has maintained its momentum via the pendulum of in-kind resources, exchanging the costs of court, police, CPS, solicitor barrister and local council time with the experience of the legal companion assistance to navigate the most direct and supported pathways to meet unmet legal needs.

As the past President of the Law Society concludes ‘Sadly the cuts are inevitable’ it may be important to remember the Public interest litigation (S. Krishnadas v Government of Maharashtra). Filed by the, then, law student who initiated the Social Legal Information Centre, Omerga, to fact find information, and with the support of the independent judicial inquiry on the constitutional right to equality won a High Court order for the State to provide financial compensation, housing and basic needs to the earthquake-affected population (see with Krishnadas Sukumaran, Reclaiming Rights, Pluto Press, forthcoming).

Twenty years on, the comparison may seem a travesty, with in effect, “the cessation of the ‘Legal Aid’ programme as it was and its evolution into a new mutation with centralised and commercial controls run from regional centres”, yet the provision of a local service (CLOCK) with “access to citizens in the community will become a resource of huge importance for those who rely on the use of the national legal system. The City which holds the ‘signed’ Magna Carta should also seek to set an example of the standards of performance expected of that document” (David Hallmark, CBE, Worcester Law Society, Visiting Fellow, Oxford. See 2015: Unification of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta, celebrating the 800th anniversary of the issue of the Charter).

It is at this intersection in time, where the hands of the CLOCK may indicate a potential for ‘remaking and restructuring the world’, (Crenshaw, 1989; 167)… or at least to bridge our constitutional rights and duties within local spheres of justice… time will tell.

Please note that with due regard to the wider CLOCK partnership, this is a personal narrative of my experience and views. For further information please contact j.h.krishnadas@keele.ac.uk

Paid Housework? Wages for, Wages Against.

Lawyer and ex parliamentarian Giulia Bongiorno is proposing the introduction of a salary for women who do housework as a way of “changing the direction” of the domestic violence debate in Italy. The original impetus behind the initiative is the acknowledgement that for many women lack of economic independence remains an important factor affecting their decision to leave an abusive relationship. “Obviously”, the proposal adds, “the salary cannot be guaranteed to women only as victims of domestic violence… The issue is another one: it is necessary to rethink the housewife’s role tout court: it is necessary to gratify and not humiliate the woman who chooses to be one”.[1] Hence the proposal for a salary to be provided either by the state or, in the case of very affluent households, by the well-off partner. Beyond domestic violence, Bongiorno’s hope is that the economic and social recognition bestowed on housework will in time enable it to be become “gender-free”.

There is much to be said about the link made here between domestic violence and women’s “invisible” labour but I’d like to briefly reflect on another aspect of the proposal, that is the fact that while referring to the normative, jurisprudential and administrative recognition that housework has received in Italy in the past three decades, the proposal is silent about an apparently similar initiative. This is the Wages for Housework campaign of the 1970s, which Italian feminists promoted for over a decade and was in turn linked to similar campaigns in Britain and the United States. I said apparently because these are very different initiatives in terms of both the premise on which they are based and the arguments they make. The common point is the recognition of domestic labour as work but this is where the similarity ends.

For the Wages for Housework campaigners, this work was certainly not a woman’s “choice”: it corresponded to a particular division of labour under capitalism which separated the sphere of production from that of reproduction, assigning (capitalist) value to the former while considering the latter unproductive. Hence, the point was to make domestic labour visible and show how crucial it was to capitalist accumulation rather than celebrating it as a woman’s choice. As Federici (1975) put it

“To say that we want wages for housework is to expose the fact that housework is already money for capital, that capital has made and makes money out of our cooking, smiling, fucking. At the same time, it shows that we have cooked, smiled, fucked throughout the years not because it was easier for us than for anybody else, but because we did not have any other choice”.

The title of her essay, Wages Against Housework, conveyed the struggle that recognising this labour as work comported, that is the need to valorise it while subverting the processes that made it “work”, thus starting to address the separation between production and reproduction. Examples of such provocations included, in addition to the demand of wages for housework, the demand that social services be organised at community level while paid by the state so to retain control and autonomy over their nature and quality (Dalla Costa and James, 1972). One such demand in England took the form of community-run nurseries, the same communities which are currently been dismantled under austerity (Barbagallo and Beuret, 2012).

Thirty years later both Dalla Costa and Federici have reflected on the limits of the wage struggle as conducive to “women’s liberation”, while also dispelling the myth that “due to increased women’s employment, unpaid domestic work and gender based hierarchies have vanished”, pointing instead to the need for self-valorization initiatives outside the logic of the market and capital (Federici and Barbagallo, 2012). This is not to say that domestic and care labour should no longer be considered work. Indeed, as Selma James has recently pointed out ‘The refusal of feminists toˇacknowledge that work enabled Tony Blair to call mothers “workless” and made way for welfare reform’s definition of aˇgoodˇmother: she goes out to a job, even below the minimum wage, with whatever childcare she can afford’ (The Guardian, 7 March 2014). The point is rather to show how problematic it is to argue for wages for housework without a political perspective that sees it as part of a system of capital accumulation which is based on the separation between the productive and reproductive spheres.

At a very basic level, providing wages without confronting the isolation, repetition and relentlessness this labour comports (and therefore without affecting the underlying social relations) is likely to reinforce the view of housework as women’s work. And the suggestion in the proposal that the wealthy spouse pays for the housework carried out by the less well-off certainly points in this direction, not in that of housework becoming “gender free”. But at a time when austerity is squeezing the costs of social reproduction to the bare minimum, it is even more important we look at the ways in which the social reproductive field is being re-configured, particularly at the new division of reproductive labour worldwide and its relationship to the productive sphere. To argue that domestic and care labour is work means to acknowledge and trace the multifarious ways in which it contributes to making (capitalist) value. Arguing for the remuneration of such labour without challenging the basis on which it contributes to capitalist processes of valorisation is a very different kind of politics from that envisaged and practiced by Wages for Housework activists.

1 http://www.doppiadifesa.it/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Proposta-_Stipendio-antiviolenza_.pdf

Same-sex attracted asylum seekers’ experience of detention in Australia

Colleagues and I at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne are planning a research project to interview same-sex attracted asylum seekers now living in civil society in Australia. We intend to interview a small number of men and women about their experience of being held in detention centres in Australia when their refugee status was being determined. There are three strands to our proposed research. The first strand is the human rights context of detaining asylum seekers in prison. The second is the mental health consequences of doing so, and the third strand concerns the layers of oppression that we suspect same-sex attracted asylum seekers might experience in prison.

Our hunch is that same-sex asylum seekers would experience multiple ‘outsider’ identities when imprisoned in detention centres in Australia. These could include their being refugees, their non-Anglo ethnicity, their non-English speaking background, and finally being same-sex attracted. We hope that by interviewing refugees who have made the transition to civil society we can gain some insight into the effect sexual difference had on their experience in prison and then in the wider Australian society once they received refugee status.

While there has been quite a lot of media coverage in Australia and overseas of same-sex attracted asylum seekers making refugee claims on the basis of fears of oppression in their home country, our intention is not to follow this line of inquiry. We are more interested in how they managed their same-sex attracted identity while in prison in detention centres in Australia and then possibly how well they have been able to integrate into civil society and gay/lesbian cultures in Australia. At present, we are seeking external funding source, so if any readers in Australia have a good fund source they can recommend, we would be grateful to hear from you.