Inheritance System and Care – Part 2

by Dr Antu Sorainen, Title of Docent, Academy of Finland Research Fellow, University of Helsinki, Gender Studies (antu.sorainen@helsinki.fi)

“It’s almost more important for a gay person to write a will than almost any other group in society. When writing a will, an LGBT person will have been able to give consideration to people and organisations that have had a positive effect on their life: they are not simply choosing their blood relatives to inherit with no regard to whether they deserve it”, responded the UK lawyer Siôn Hudson – who regularly drafts wills for people from all around Cambridge – to my first blog from 31 May.[1]

In this second blog I am discussing why it matters for queer people how governments seek to reform inheritance tax laws. In my view, sexuality is deeply implicated in the distribution of wealth through inheritance system. Inheritance taxation is under scrutiny in Europe: and an urgent matter when we think about inheritance from the point of view of queer relationships. The trend to abolish inheritance taxes has direct bearings on the organization of queer care, both structurally and at personal level, as the decline of public welfare puts more ideological, political and managerial stress on private care.

If queers do not write wills to support financially their friends, lovers and community (a fact derived from by my research data and practicing lawyers’ experiences), the queer community will depend more than before on the co-incidences of blood ties and will be exposed to familial and social homophobia.

***

My case study is the Nordic welfare countries where finance economics and political populism are currently feeding on social injustice in terms of inheritance taxation. Sweden abolished inheritance tax in 2005 in favour of capital gains tax, meaning that property is taxed not when inherited but only when realized.[2] Norway abolished inheritance tax in 2014, though it remains in Denmark and Finland. The latter country, however, seeks to follow the lead of Sweden and Norway; a new government has declared that intergenerational transmission in family firms will be advanced through reducing inheritance tax, and that capital gains tax and “other options” will be evaluated.

Finland risks a lot. Even in the equality “paradise” of Sweden, family background (status, education level, surname) correlates with the individual’s wealth path in society. This social factor arguably only heightened when capital gains tax was introduced. As one consequence of the cutting of inheritance tax, flats now circulate within families even for generations because the capital gains tax is rather high (30%) in Sweden. Rich families do not sell their flats but pass them on as tax-free legacies. This influences on the gentrification process in the biggest cities, and also the continuing difficulty of class travel in society.

As an example of how capital gains tax leads to socio-economic stagnation and creates a class glass ceiling for queers, we might take the example of Finnish immigrants to Sweden. Many Finns moved to Stockholm, Gothenburg or Norrköping suburbs in the 1960s to live on factory jobs. This mass migration was one consequence of the rapid urbanization of the Finnish society, which left small farmers without a future in their own country. These rural migrants were accompanied by a significant number of Finnish lesbians and gays who moved to Sweden in the 1970s as the sexual atmosphere was much more liberal there.[3] These immigration generational cohorts are now getting elderly, and if they had children these are now properly ‘swedizised’. Even if some of them are economically well-off, they are often without any hope of ever buying a flat in city centres since valuable flats are circulated through the inheritance system in a number of wealthy Swedish families.

Marriage would open a route to this circle of inherited flats – but marriage was not a legal option when Finnish queer immigrants were younger. These flats are not on the open market for other immigrants or Sweden’s own nouveau rich, either. It is clear that this does not help to overcome social inequalities or to maintain big Swedish cities as a buzz of trade and liberal life supported by mobility and difference.

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Capital gains tax thus impacts on social minorities in negative ways. It will lead to increasing accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few. This “weather forecast” could be given to all societies with a big ratio of social inequalities, such as the UK.

John Stuart Mill advocated, for one, high inheritance taxes. For Keynes, inheritance was inherently unequal and not to be defended albeit he valued the right for economic gain – but the conservative agenda thrives and we lack critical voices based on proper socio-legal impact analysis. A shift in the direction of capital gains tax would result in an increase in socio-economic homogamy, the effects of which would impact the stability of minorities in society – those whose intimate relations, reproductive choices and support relations do not accord with the law’s categorizations. Queer sexualities have relevance for the inheritance institution’s categories in that the inheritance system distributes wealth mainly in small heterosexual family circles and potentially neglects “other” relationship categories than those based on blood and heterosexual marriage.

Adopting the capital gains tax may benefit some lucky queers born in wealthy and liberal families but keeping the inheritance tax and adjusting the system of inheritance taxation could benefit many if not all. What I would suggest is to have a better look at inheritance tax categories to make them sensitive to difference outside of conjugal norm and to better hinder tax avoidance of the rich through family firms.

[1] http://www.millersands.com/the-importance-of-having-a-will-the-lgbt-perspective/

[2] Magnus Henrekson and Daniel Waldenström. 2014. ”Inheritance Taxation in Sweden, 1885–2004: The Role of Ideology, Family Firms and Tax Avoidance.” http://www.ifn.se/wfiles/wp/wp1032.pdf

[3]Sorainen, Antu. 2014. “Two Cities of Helsinki: One Practically Queer and One Liberally Gay.” In Matt Cook and Jennifer Evans (eds.) Queer Cities, Queer Cultures: Europe Post 1945. London: Bloomsbury, 211-239.

Rethinking the Care Needs of Older Homeless People

by Rachel Barken and Amanda Grenier

The care needs of older adults experiencing physical and cognitive decline generate much attention in political, popular, and academic debates. Yet, particular subgroups of the older population are often overlooked. Such is the case for older homeless people, whose numbers are increasing across Canada and internationally. Older homelessness is also largely invisible in academic study, although interest is beginning to turn in this direction. Few gerontological works focus on homelessness, and studies on homelessness are often organized around earlier parts of the life course (Crane & Warnes, 2005; McDonald, Dergal, & Cleghorn, 2007). As a result, we know little about older homeless adults’ needs for care.

Our research project, “Homelessness in Late life: Growing Old on the Streets, in Shelters, and Long-term Care” explores the challenges older homelessness brings for aging societies as a whole and for service providers working in housing, shelter and long-term care. It involves a critical policy analysis; qualitative interviews with service providers and older homeless people; and participant observation in homeless shelters in Montreal, Quebec. This blog reports preliminary results from interviews with 15 service providers working with older homeless people. Interviews revealed three findings relevant to the challenges and contradictions of later life homelessness: (1) the need to adapt current approaches to homelessness to better accommodate older people, (2) the need to develop and sustain affordable housing across the life course, and (3) the inherent emotional conflicts and contradictions associated with homelessness in late life.

First, homelessness tends to be approached as a rupture in the life course requiring an emergency response. Support services are often provided in reaction to a fixed event, with the aim of reconnecting people with work or housing.  Interviews with service providers, though, reveal that older homelessness is often the result of marginal and precarious positions over time. The combined implications of social marginalization and older age means that traditional solutions based on work and housing are less able to ‘fix’ the problem of older homelessness. A deeper understanding of the interconnected individual and structural forces leading to later life homelessness is necessary.

Second, older people are caught between various housing and long-term care models. Housing options for older homeless adults in Canada include affordable housing units, alternative housing models, emergency shelters, and residential and long-term care facilities. Yet there is often a disjuncture between housing policies and practices on the one hand, and older homeless adults’ experiences, needs, and abilities on the other. Older people may need to compete against younger groups for subsidised housing. Pensions provide a certain level of income, but this does not address the shortage in supported housing options. Add to this that shelters or rooming houses are not intended as spaces to grow old. They are not adapted to changes in mobility and certainly do not qualify as ‘home’. Long-term care is also often inaccessible to older homeless people. They either cannot afford long-term care, or their needs cannot easily be accommodated in institutional environments.

Our third finding is perhaps most interesting to the debates circulating on this blog. Although workers do not necessarily name it as such, their interviews convey emotional, moral, and ethical conflicts around service priorities, personal associations, and expectations of aging. Their comments that one is ‘not expected to be homeless in later life’ poignantly articulate the conflicts that they experience with regards to aging and marginalisation and a profound helplessness given the lack of service options available for older homeless people.

In sum, homelessness rarely figures in to discussions of later life care. This leaves us with few directives when attempting to care for older homelessness people. We suggest that a life course perspective could be fruitfully applied to understand major pathways into homelessness, particularly risk factors and trigger events, and their prevalence across the life course. With this in place, it is necessary to design housing and care options that suit older homeless people’s diverse needs, abilities, and interests. Finally, it is urgent for discussions of later life care to address the realities of homelessness in particular, and social marginalization more generally. Our project, grounded in empirical data, seeks to generate knowledge that will enable policymakers and practitioners to account for homelessness in their responses to later life care.

References:

Crane, M., & Warnes, A. (2005). Responding to the needs of older homeless people.         Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 18(2), 137-152.

McDonald, L., Dergal, J., & Cleghorn, L. (2007). Living on the margins: Older homeless    adults in Toronto. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 49(1-2), 19-46.

* The results discussed in this blog are part of an ongoing study being carried out at the Old Brewery Mission in Montreal, and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Homelessness in Late Life: Growing Old on the Streets, in Shelters and Long-term Care: Amanda Grenier (PI), Tamara Sussman, David Rothwell and Jean-Pierre Lavoie.

Amanda Grenier, PhD, is Director of the Gilbrea Centre for the Studies of Aging, Gilbrea Chair in Aging and Mental Health, and Associate Professor in Health, Aging and Society at McMaster University, Canada.

Rachel Barken is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University and Research Assistant on the Homelessness in Late Life research project.

‘Preceptorship’ – helping newly qualified nurses ‘thrown in at the deep end’

Preceptorship is support for newly qualified nurses (NQNs) as they transition from studenthood to the demands, and responsibilities, of being a qualified nurse. Preceptorship refers to ‘a period of structured transition for the newly registered practitioner during which he or she will be supported by a preceptor, to develop their confidence as an autonomous professional, refine skills, values and behaviours and to continue on their journey of life-long learning’ (DoH 2010: 11). It is underpinned by a range of government policies and good practice guidelines, including A High Quality Workforce: NHS Next Stage Review which states: ‘A foundation period of preceptorship for practitioners at the start of their careers will help them begin the journey from novice to expert’ (DoH 2008: 72). Preceptorship aims to address how knowledge acquired in nurse training is recontextualised in practice (Evans et al 2010) and how newly qualified nurses (NQNs) adapt to the ‘real world of practice’ (Houghton 2014).

In addition to needing support in developing their clinical skills and self-confidence in their own nursing judgements, many NQNs find time-management in busy clinical contexts a challenge (O’Kane 2012) and, in parallel, experience difficulties in relation to delegation skills. Inability to delegate can lead to NQNs feeling overwhelmed, which can result in burnout and high staff turnover of NQNs. However, despite the need for registered nurses to be competent in delegating and supervising unregistered health care assistants, research suggests that their nurse education does not always equip them with the necessary skills (Hasson, McKenna and Keeny 2013). Preceptorship then becomes a vital means of supporting them in acquiring those skills.

Even though research repeatedly affirms the importance of preceptorship, it is not consistently available to NQNs cross the UK, nor, even if offered on paper, is it always reliably delivered in practice (Higgins Spencer and Kane, 2010) particularly at times where there are considerable restraints upon nursing budgets (Avis, Mallik and Fraser 2013). This means that many NQNs feel they find themselves in ‘Sink or Swim’ situations (Hughes and Fraser 2001). While many will swim, some inevitably will sink. This is a terribly waste not only of training, but also of people who want to be, and could be, competent and confident nurses, provided they are given sufficient support during their transition from student to qualified nurse. Investment in preceptorship can have huge benefits in supporting and retaining NQNs (Whitehead et al 2013) and as such should be made consistently and robustly available to nurses during their initial post-qualifying period.

References
Avis, Mark, Mallik, Maggie and Fraser, Diane M. (2013). ‘”Practising under your own Pin”–a description of the transition experiences of newly qualified midwives.’ Journal of Nursing Management 21(8): 1061-1071
Department of Health (2008). A High Quality Workforce: NHS Next Stage Review. London: Department of Health.
Department of Health (2010) Preceptorship Framework for Newly Registered Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals. London: Department of Health
Evans, Karen, et al. (2010) ‘Putting knowledge to work: A new approach.’ Nurse Education Today 30(3): 245-251.
Hasson, Felicity, Hugh P. McKenna, and Sinead Keeney (2013) ‘Delegating and supervising unregistered professionals: the student nurse experience.’ Nurse Education Today 33(3): 229-235.
Higgins, Georgina Spencer, Racheel Louise and Kane, Ros (2010). “A systematic review of the experiences and perceptions of the newly qualified nurse in the United Kingdom.” Nurse Education Today 30(6): 499-508.
Houghton, Catherine E. (2014) ‘”Newcomer adaptation”: a lens through which to understand how nursing students fit in with the real world of practice.’ Journal of Clinical Nursing: Advance access, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocn.12451/full
Hughes, Anita J., and Fraser, Diane M. (2011). ‘”SINK or SWIM”: The experience of newly qualified midwives in England.’ Midwifery 27(3): 382-386.
O’Kane, Catherine E. (2012). ‘Newly qualified nurses’ experiences in the intensive care unit.’ Nursing in Critical Care, 17(1): 44-51.
Whitehead, Bill, et al. (2013). ‘Supporting newly qualified nurses in the UK: A systematic literature review.’ Nurse Education Today 33: 370–377.