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  • Author or Editor: Marian Barnes x
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An ethic of care in practice
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Care has been struggled for, resisted and celebrated. The failure to care in ‘care services’ has been seen as a human rights problem and evidence of malaise in contemporary society. But care has also been implicated in the oppression of disabled people and demoted in favour of choice in health and social care services.

In this bold wide ranging book Marian Barnes argues for care as an essential value in private lives and public policies. She considers the importance of care to well-being and social justice and applies insights from feminist care ethics to care work, and care within personal relationships. She also looks at ‘stranger relationships’, how we relate to the places in which we live, and the way in which public deliberation about social policy takes place. This book will be vital reading for all those wanting to apply relational understandings of humanity to social policy and practice.

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Applying Feminist Care Ethics to Research Practice

What are the implications of caring about the things we research? How does that affect how we research, who we research with and what we do with our results? Proposing what Tronto has called a ‘paradigm shift’ in research thinking, this book invites researchers across disciplines and fields of study to do research that thinks and acts with care.

The authors draw on their own and others’ experiences of researching, the troubles they encounter and the opportunities generated when research is approached as a caring practice. Care ethics provides a guide from starting out, designing and conducting projects, to thinking about research legacies. It offers a way in which research can help repair harms and promote justice.

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Drawing on contributions from user activists and academic researchers, this topical reader provides a critical stock take of the state of user involvement. It considers different contexts in which such involvement is taking place and includes diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives on the issues involved. This original and insightful critique will be an important resource for students studying health and social care and social work, researchers and user activists.

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Power, agency and resistance in public services
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Many of the recent reforms in public services in the UK have been driven by the image of the ‘responsible citizen’ - the service user who does not only have rights to receive services but also has responsibilities for the delivery of policy outcomes. In this way, citizens’ everyday conduct is shaped by governmental action, yet there is much evidence that both front-line staff in public services and the people who use them can sometimes act in ways that modify, disrupt or negate intended policy outcomes.

“Subversive citizens” presents a highly original examination of how official policy objectives can be ‘subverted’ through the actions of staff and users. It discusses the role of public policy in the creation of ‘good citizenship’, such as making appropriate choices about what to eat and how much to save, to being an active participant in the local community. It also examines how the roles of service delivery staff have changed substantially, and how theories of ‘power’ and ‘agency’ are useful in analysing the engagement between public policies (and those employed to deliver them) and the citizens at whom they are targeted.

The idea of subversive citizenship is explored through theoretical and empirical analyses by a range of prominent social researchers and will be of interest to students of social policy, sociology, criminology, politics and related disciplines, as well as policy makers involved in public services.

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Feminist care ethics emphasises the relational nature of care. This suggests the importance of understanding the different dynamics of care in different relational contexts. This article applies such a perspective to exploratory interviews with carers looking after siblings in older age. While some attention has been given to sibling care following the death of parents of people with learning difficulties and, to a lesser extent, those with enduring mental health problems, older sibling care can take place when siblings become ill, or when they have had close contact over a lifetime. Motivations to care are strongly embedded in family responsibility, but the precise meaning and consequences of this vary. Such relationships may not be more egalitarian than other familial caring relationships, although caregiving can bring siblings closer together.

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This article discusses the rules of the game in participatory democracy and the engagement of disabled people and mental health service users/survivors in the process. Drawing on theories of new social movements and of deliberative democracy, the article considers how notions of ‘legitimate participants’ are constructed within official discourse, and how those can be challenged by autonomous groups of disabled people. It also explores assumptions about appropriate forms of deliberation within participation forums and how an appeal to rational debate can exclude the emotional content of the experience of living with mental health problems from deliberation about mental health policy. The argument is illustrated by reference to research conducted by the author, and by a Canadian study of user/survivor involvement in policy making.

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This paper argues that public service evaluation should be considered a value-driven activity which has the objective of contributing to change. Researchers undertaking this type of work have legitimate interests to pursue through it and should be regarded as stakeholders in their own right. Reflecting a commitment to changing the balance of power between those who provide and those who receive services, the interests of service users as stakeholders should be enhanced through the research process. This requires a different type of relationship between the researcher and research ‘subjects’. An attempt to put these principles in practice in the context of the evaluation of a major initiative to enable users to have their say in the development of community care services is described.

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The ethics of care offers a broad understanding of care as a ‘species activity’ that encompasses diverse contexts and relationships. This means needing to look beyond one to one relationships that clearly distinguish care givers from care receivers to understand the diversity of what care means in practice, and what the ethical implications are. This chapter considers how to conceptualise diverse caring relationships, including ‘collective care’ that involves networks or groups of individuals. It also reviews ways in which the ethics of care helps us think about issues of presence/distance and of degrees of intimacy within caring relationships. Finally, it considers the significance of time: past, present and future, in relation to care both in personal contexts where past relationships and future aspirations and fears affect care, but also political perspectives on collective responsibilities for past wrongs and future needs.

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This introduces care as a way of conceptualising relationships, as a set of values and as a practice. It notes the way in which care has been resisted, and the need to recognise ‘poor care’ and its impact. It summarises the book structure.

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This chapter highlights three key elements of feminist care ethics: an emphasis on human individuals as relational and hence the universality of the need for care; the moral principles of care ethics, and the relationship between care and justice. It identifies care ethics as one of a number of normative positions that seeks to emphasise the importance of connections between people, such as Ubuntu in African philosophy and Whanaugatanga in Maori culture. But it distinguishes feminist care ethics from both communitarianism and from theories of social capital.

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