I have some personal experience to link in with the topic of a planned conference at Brighton University next September. I helped care for my mother at home, and then when her dementia went beyond my capabilities I visited her regularly in the nursing home (as well as dealing with relevant business). But the onset of Covid meant long periods when I did not see her at all, interspersed with a few visits under varying forms of restriction and separation. Only now can I hold her hand - with a glove.
The Covid crisis has produced a flurry of talk about revaluing care work - only too often treated as 'unskilled'. But how? The obvious method is to pay more, but many care providers are under financial pressure as well as the NHS (social care as a business depends on local council funding in England). Past history with pay issues shows the difficulty of persuading people in other sectors that they do not also deserve (relatively) improved pay. Then, so much care work is voluntary through the family or various community associations or charities - sometimes subsidised with the problematic Care Allowance I myself drew for several years. How can we upvalue that without relying on the vagaries of an honours system all too often linked to careerists and celebrities?
Thanks to the issues of gender and women's work, valuation of care work is also enmeshed in what we might call the Reproduction Wars (Brighton University keep to the more polite 'Politics of Reproduction'). I hardly need mention the links to politically charged topics ranging from 'feticide' (as many US states call it) to the (in)effectiveness of police and the law in dealing with domestic violence.
Yet, waiting in the shadows of the future lies the prospect of AI and robot technology, which is already being discussed in relation to care work. Worringly, that discussion is largely left to specialists while the campaigners keep to their trenches.