What is the relationship of care work and love?

Jonathan Stanley, Residential Forum member, writes:

Over Christmas there may be a moment for us to reflect on the relationship of care work and love. This is the focus for the National Centre of Excellence for Residential Child Care (NCERCC) review of the collaboration special issue of the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC) and International Journal of Social Pedagogy (ISJP) journals: Love in Professional Practice.

“The question to be asked is not if it shall be taken into account in professional social work, but what kind of love is expected from the social workers, and how love can be encompassed in social work practice”.

A Canadian Minister of Child Welfare on the comment that ‘We can’t legislate for love’, had the response, ‘No, but you can legislate the conditions in which love can happen’. The Guide to the Quality Standards for children’s homes in England identifies Love in its principles for practice.

This raises the issue of the current consideration by the English government to separate support from care in some social care settings. Can there be support without care? If it is absent then what is this practice, and what are the effects?

Kind of love

This special edition considers the central role of love and its multiple meanings. Care, acceptance, empathy, sympathy, compassion, presence, recognition, respect, honesty, commitment, trust, regard, affirmation, sense of community, striving to understand and ensure the well-being of the other, are all identified throughout the literature as key components of loving interactions and loving relationships. Writers explore a differentiation of love in this professional context from the kind of love present in private relationships.

Bettelheim observed, “Love alone is “not enough”, to ensure positive outcomes for children, there must be the application of appropriate knowledge of human development in everyday interactions with children. In the journal important observations are linked together such as, ‘the experience of being loved is … a necessary prerequisite to participate in public life’, by experiencing attuned care children learn to internalise trust in themselves and in the outer world, they gain a sense of themselves as worthy of love (as ‘loveable’) and learn what it is to love. Love is both a set of actions and of feelings. The review includes a linked study that explains how one setting sets out to achieve this for children.

Read the NCERCC review in full here

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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