SSAHE Webinar 5 October 2020 5-6.30pm

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During the lockdown, care of oneself, one’s family and those in the community was a central concern. A multitude of COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups sprung up to fill deficits in care provision as a result of the lockdown. The public and media championed care workers as one of the essential and key workers who enabled them to survive during the pandemic. It also made everyone realise more clearly how interdependent we, and not only women, are upon one another and the economic and social resources needed to provide and receive care. However, care workers, both those employed in residential care homes for the elderly or looking after the elderly and disabled in households, were among some of the groups with the highest death rates from COVID-19 not just in the UK but also in the world. Both groups were given totally inadequate personal protection equipment leading to a higher than average percentage of cared for and carers being infected and dying as a result of the pandemic.

In this webinar we shall analyse the consequences of the financialisation and privatisation of social care  in the past 30 years and the inadequately regulated care for the elderly and the disabled, on the one hand, and poor pay and precarious conditions for many. The impact of austerity on resources devoted to care and precariousness of the labour force are likely to affect the quality of care being received. Care has thus been undermined. About 50% of home carers are on zero hours contracts. As Ken Loach  showed  so trenchantly in his film Sorry to Have Missed You, home carers have to follow strict allocation of time and are not allowed, except in their own time, to give the additional, physical and  emotional caring, the cared for may need.

The effects of the pandemic on livelihoods were felt most acutely by precarious migrants (undocumented and those subject to No Recourse to Public Funds) targeted by the hostile environment. Unlike Italy and Portugal, the UK did not regularise undocumented migrants and indeed many  precarious workers in households lost their jobs or had their income reduced.  Furthermore,  they were not entitled to access the mitigatory measures put in place by government with some becoming destitute or forced to become reliant on community organisations and friends.

Many of the workers in home care and residential homes, especially in London, are migrants, both from the EU and non-EU.  Despite the support for care workers during the pandemic and the desperate labour shortages, the new post Brexit immigration policies from January 2021 will treat EU and non-EU  migrants in the same way, thus extending the hostile environment. Under these policies, only a small minority of care workers with a certain level of seniority or experience will meet the skills threshold.Its stated intention is to reduce reliance on migrant labour. Most importantly these uncaring policies will continue to refuse any recognition of those performing socially valuable but poorly recompensed labour Such policies will also do little to address the shortage of labour and pressures experienced by care workers within a sector which has experienced chronic and persistent under-funding and a lack of investment in qualifications, training and progression.

The Care Collective, a London-based collective of academics and political activists from different disciplines founded in 2017, has published a Care Manifesto based on the universality of care and its complexities. It has called for the reversing of the marketisation of care and care infrastructures and the creation of a Caring State. This would involve both a state which values care economically, socially and politically, as well as one which breaks down rigid sexual and ethnic division of labour and dismantles racialised policies.


Titles and Biographies


Hostile Environment and care workers experiences

Susan Cueva is a Trustee at Kanlungan Filipino Consortium which is a consortium of small grassroots community and voluntary organisations. She is also a Trustee of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and served as a trustee for almost 10 years at Refugee Action, after working with them as one of the Regional Team Leaders.

Susan worked for 15 years as a National Development Officer at UNISON’s Strategic Organising Unit with lead responsibility for organising migrant workers in the health and social  care sector and in private companies delivering public services. Before this she worked as the Deputy Director at Voluntary Action Camden (VAC) where part of her role was developing and managing the VAC’s  European-funded projects in coordination with five other CVS across London around issues of poverty.

Care and the Uncaring Politics of Migration

Eleonore Kofman is Professor of Gender, Migration and Citizenship and co-Director of the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University London.  She has written extensively on both skilled and less skilled workers in care sectors (Kofman and Raghuram Gendered Migrations and Global Social Reproduction, 2015). Recently she completed the UK report for the PHS Quality, Job Quality and Industrial Relations in the Personal and Household Services Sector for the European Commission’s Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Report, 2020.   She was one of the organisers of the ATGENDER conference Caring in Uncaring Times (May 2020 and participated in discussions in July 2020 organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) on Feminist Europe- Does Europe Care for Care?

Covid-19 and Social Care: the consequences of  three decades of  privatisation and financialisation

Ruth Pearson is Emeritus Professor of International Development at the University of Leeds.  She is the author of several  books and articles on women migrant workers in  the UK, Latin America and South East Asia which interrogate the relationship between paid employment and unpaid gendered care responsibilities.  She  co-authored the  2016 PSA Commission of Care Report Towards a New Deal for Care and Carers. She is a longstanding member of the Women’s Budget Group and has published a number of briefings on care, crisis and Covid available on

The hostile environment, racism and the complexities of care

Lynne Segal is Anniversary Professor in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published many books on gender, feminism and politics, the most recent ones being Making Trouble: Life and Politics; Out of Time: The Pleasures & Perils of Ageing and Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy. She is currently working on the politics of care and disavowals of dependency. As part of The Care Collective, she has co-authored The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence, Verso, September, 2020



Gina Netto is Reader in International and Forced Migration at The Urban Institute in Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh. She has published extensively on migrant integration, including most recently on the need for statistics which more fully capture the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racialised minorities, the challenges of progressing from low-paid labour and intersectionality theory. Her work has been funded by the European Commission, the GCRF, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, government and quasi-governmental organisations and various charities, She is a member of the Scottish Government’s Expert Reference Group on Migration, Ethnicity and COVID-19 and its Strategic Labour Market Group and has acted as expert witness for the UNHCR and consultant for the Brussels-based International Centre for Migration Policy Development.

Marie Godin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. Her project is titled ‘Refugees, social protection and digital technologies’ and aims to explore how the development of tech-social protection initiatives led by, with or for refugees, is contributing to a reshaping of the politics of welfare at the local, national and transnational levels.  Her broader research interests lie in the area of migration and development, with a focus on diaspora engagement and gender, second-generation diaspora activism and transnational social protection.