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PhD Researcher

My PhD title is Wellbeing of older carers of people living with dementia through sustainable social support in Wales

My background

I completed a BSc in Philosophy and Sociology at Swansea University and subsequently worked for several non-governmental organisations in Wales including Age Cymru for five years where I led policy work relating to older people and equality and human rights issues.  During this time I completed a Master’s degree in Equality and Diversity at Cardiff University.  I moved to the Welsh Local Government Association in 2007 to work as a Policy Officer for New Communities, advising local and national government on issues relating to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.  In 2010, I moved to the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University and have held various research roles, most recently as a Research Development Officer for the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research.

My research

I began my PhD in January 2018.  The PhD addresses the so-called ‘unsustainable’ demand on social care services in Wales focusing on family carers and the ‘well-being’ policy ambitions for social care services. Despite its widespread application, the term ‘well-being’ lacks theoretical foundation within the adult care paradigm, and the PhD asks critical questions of the ‘well-being’ in care approach to demand management of social care in Wales.  The study site for the case study  is Wales where a well-being in care discourse is dominant and at the centre of current social care reform.  Using gender as a key analytical tool a theoretical framework for the analysis of well-being within care will be developed and applied to older family carers thereby grounding the conceptual analysis within a policy and a population level. 

Across Europe many countries are experiencing what has become popularised as a ‘crisis of care’, something that has been generally believed to be due to a number of simultaneous events including; population ageing, increasing numbers of women entering the labour market, persistently low fertility rates, family structural changes and significant cuts to welfare provision. 

In the UK, recent responses to the so called ‘crisis of care’ emphasise the importance and recognition of unpaid care work and a raft of legislation and policy aimed at supporting carers have been developed focused upon the idea of promoting individual and community ‘well-being’.  ‘Well-being’ encapsulates many ideas about what it means to have and to lead a ‘good life’, and in recent decades increasing global agreement has been afforded to the idea that the way in which humans can judge how ‘well’ societies are must include a measure of how happy, and satisfied individuals report themselves to be.  Alongside including more objective measures such as employment figures and gross domestic production well-being has become a widely accepted concept within social care Government policy. 

Why now?

The inclusion of well-being within social care programmes aimed at supporting both the paid and unpaid (family) care is a relatively new in the UK, and represents a profound shift in policy and emphasis.  It has generally been viewed as a progressive turn in policy for carers, and received little or not critical attention.  This is surprising given that despite well-being policies aimed at supporting carers, carers have been shown to not access support and help, and continue to report ill physical and mental health, and an increasing number are leaving the paid labour market because of unpaid caring responsibilities.  

Why is it important?

What is on the surface a benign and seemingly straightforward concept masks deep complexity.  This research aims to understand what well-being means for family carers, and deconstruct the socially accepted ideas of family care.  Even if unpaid care is recognised within social policy programmes, it does not seem to readily convert into freedom, independence, agency or worth for majority of unpaid family carers.  The questions are posed and considered; what does well-being look like for family carers? and what worth does ‘well-being’ within a social care programme have for family carers?

Awards

  • ROSEnet Awarded funding to attend writing workshop in Brussels, March 2019
  • ROSEnet £1000 awarded to attend policy master class in Ljubljana, Slovenia, June 2018
  • Welsh Government, £5000.  Grant awarded ‘Employment opportunities for older workers in Wales’.  2016
  • Older Peoples Commissioner, £8600.  An evaluation of the Dementia Supportive Communities Programme. 2016

Supervisors

Prof Norah Keating, Prof Vanessa Burholt, Dr Gideon Calder

Contact

138128@swansea.ac.uk

Picture of Maria Cheshire Allen