1. Inequalities in care: global, local and transnational dynamics in an age of migration

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The giving and receiving of care is characterised by a myriad of inequalities spanning social, spatial and economic dimensions. In the contexts of contemporary migration, long-standing patterns of inequalities are being re-shaped and new ones are emerging. This is happening through the complex interplay of global, local and transnational dynamics, rendering sustainable solutions for more equal care arrangements and relationships particularly challenging

Theme conveners: Professor Majella Kilkey (University of Sheffield, UK).

Team leading this theme: Professor Loretta Baldassar (University of Western Australia, Australia); Dr Weronika Kloc-Nowak (University of Warsaw, Poland); Dr Li-Fang Liang (Dong-Hwa University, Taiwan); Professor Ito Peng (University of Toronto, Canada).

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2. Work, care and wellbeing: new solutions, ongoing challenges

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Increasing numbers of people combine paid work with caring for a family member or friend who needs help to manage illness, disability or other long-term difficulties, yet these workers continue to face particular challenges. Many struggle with balancing paid work with their caring role, with damaging consequences for themselves that may also affect those they care for or work with. Problems can include:

  • Maintaining their own health and wellbeing
  • Progressing in their job or career
  • Arranging flexible working or taking time off to enact caring responsibilities
  • Securing suitable support or services for the person they care for
  • Managing communications in complex and changing circumstances

Solutions to some of these difficulties are emerging: employee wellness programmes; organisational schemes offering support to working carers; imaginative IT or technological solutions; care services tailored to individual needs. This theme will explore promising solutions, ongoing challenges, and the consequences of combining work and care, as this experience becomes more common around the world.

Theme convener: Dr Attracta Lafferty (University College Dublin).

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3. Technology in care: opportunities and obstacles in place-based care contexts

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Care at home, to support independent living and ageing in place, is a growing challenge around the world. In some systems unmet need is increasing, with public funding stretched to breaking point, increasing reliance on private provision, home care staff hard to recruit and carers under pressure. Industry experts and governments hail technological innovation as an important and sustainable way of addressing these challenges.

Already, assistive technologies help many people with support needs to engage in everyday activities; they seem certain to play a role in how care is experienced in the future. Yet barriers to uptake remain, scaling up and investment are slow, and what new digital, AI (artificial intelligence)/robotic and other developments offer is unclear. Technology needs to address older people’s and their carers’ needs in design and functionality. This theme addresses the question: ‘What will technologies relevant to care look like, and how will they address emerging challenges of capacity in care arrangements and support wellbeing outcomes?

Papers in this theme will explore how technologies can support those providing informal and formal care to care more effectively. Topics may include the role of technology in: improving reconciliation between paid work and caring; reducing care-related health problems; supporting caring at a distance; and improve communication between caregivers and care recipients. Papers are also invited that consider: the role of technologies in providing care in rural areas and/or addressing rural/urban polarisation; data protection and privacy issues; and its potential for delivering better home care.

Theme conveners: Dr Matthew Lariviere (University of Sheffield) and Professor Andreas Hoff (Zittau-Görlitz University, Germany).

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4. Care markets: how and for whom do they work?

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Market instruments are now widely used to organise and distribute formal care services to older people and people with disabilities, raising important questions about crucial issues:

  • The adequacy of care markets: do they meet the needs of the target populations? Are some populations and sub-populations served better than others?
  • The design and operation of care markets: how are different care markets designed? Are some designs better than others – and are all better than the systems they replaced?
  • Diversity in care markets: does marketisation lead to an innovative and differentiated range of services that can meet people’s diverse needs, or does it lead to isomorphism and conservatism?
  • Navigation of care markets: how do people access the services they need? Are there equity issues in people’s ability to access marketised care?
  • Oversight of care markets: can the state effectively commission and regulate marketised services?

Theme conveners: Professor Gabrielle Meagher (Macquarie University) and Professor Catherine Needham (University of Birmingham).

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5. Sustainable care at home: understanding the ‘care mix’

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Home care supporting older and/or disabled people is characterised by a mix of different types of care work and activities, including formal care services, regular care work in private households, irregular ‘grey market’ activities and care provided by family, friends or neighbours.

This ‘care mix’ involves different types of care work and people in a variety of relations to one another. It is embedded in cultures, demographic circumstances and national policies on immigration and long-term/social care, and thus differs between countries.

Papers in this theme stream will examine the determinants and consequences of the ‘care-mix’ in different national contexts, exploring care worker, carer or care user perspectives (or a combination of these).

Theme conveners: Professor Hildegard Theobald (University of Vechta, Germany) and Professor Shereen Hussein (University of Kent).

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6. Caring relations: toward sustainable arrangements with wellbeing outcomes

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In recent decades, rhetorics of ‘rights and responsibilities’, ‘independence and autonomy’, and ‘choice and control’ have often dominated discussions of care. An important response to the rightful claims of disabled people, this has focused attention on the support for individuals. Carers, too, have laid claim to recognition, in some jurisdictions securing modest legislative responses. Less discussed, especially in relation to resource allocation and care planning, have been the networks and ‘convoys’ of relationships in which people with support needs and carers are embedded, and how these contribute to wellbeing outcomes.

This theme will debate broad themes, such as how caring responsibility is allocated, distributed and accepted or rejected; who takes, or may refuse, to meet care needs; and the relevance of concepts of wellbeing in developing policies about care and assessing their outcomes and potential sustainability.

Theme convener: Professor Sue Yeandle (University of Sheffield).

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7. Care workforce wellbeing

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The care workforce is the backbone of social care and directly influence the quality of care provided to service users. There has been a considerable increase in the number of jobs in care in the last decade, both in the UK and internationally, and that number is estimated to keep increasing across the sector. However, the supply of professional care workers is a major concern for providers and government as attracting and retain high quality staff is problematic. There is still a strong perception that care work is unqualified and characterised by low pay and poor working conditions. There is also a lack of understanding on to mitigate some of the issues associated with poor recognition and the wellbeing of care workers more broadly. Papers in this theme stream will investigate interventions and challenges for workforce wellbeing as well as support needs and employment conditions for a sustainable workforce development.

Theme conveners: Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal (University of Sheffield) and Dr Fiona Macdonald (RMIT University).

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This theme brings together papers submitted to the conference that did not fit closely into any of the set themes but still address the questions of sustainability and wellbeing in social care. The majority of the abstracts in this theme broadly relate to the concept of “professionalisation of informal carers” and explore the relationship between them and either the paid workforce or the care system from different perspectives such as the support offered to carers, the cost and impact of caring, and decision-making about current and future care arrangements. Another feature of the presentations in this theme is that a number of them adopt a macro perspective and comment on policy issues from social care reform to familialism.

Theme convener: Dr Agnes Turnpenny (University of Kent).

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For any questions regarding themes or submissions, please contact Kelly Davidge

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