Thematic Panel 4: Transforming Care Policies in Light of Global COVID-19 Pandemic: Different Welfare Regimes, Different Paths?

Alexandra Kaasch and Cansu Erdogan, University of Bielefeld

This session addresses the questions of whether and how different welfare regimes and degrees of familialism affect COVID-19 measures related to long-term care policies. We aim to bring together scholars from comparative welfare state and long-term care research to understand and discuss transformations in care policies in different countries in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. While the global COVID-19 pandemic currently has a serious effect on anybody’s life, it has been particularly hard on vulnerable people under long-term care in care homes. In addition to already existing deep-rooted problems in long-term care, this new infectious disease has already caused many elderly people losing their lives in care homes – partly caused by staff shortages, inadequate safety measures and infection prevention.

Countries responded with different sorts of measures to this ever-growing problem. In this session, we ask whether these policy responses are path-dependent and how related measures can be understood with reference to welfare state regime types. We also would like to go beyond the three worlds of welfare capitalism and discuss papers from different parts of the world. In this way, we aim to have a broader understanding of the patterns of transforming care policies in times of COVID-19 pandemic from a comparative perspective.

Thematic Panel 3: Time in disability policies and in support for disabled people in different care regimes

Yueh-Ching Chou, National Yang-Ming University
Teppo Kröger, University of Jyväskylä

This thematic panel focuses on the development of disability policies and the role of time in it. Last 50 years have seen huge changes concerning the inclusion of disabled people in society as equal citizens: in the 1960s the North American independent living movement and in the 1970s the social model of disability in the UK both led to new global perspectives of disability (e.g., ICF of WHO and UNCRPD) and social care reforms, especially to personal assistance and personalisation of social care that have become the mainstream of formal support or integrated with homecare in some European countries in the 1990s and in some Pacific and Asian countries in the 2000s. On the other hand, however, still after a half of a century of independent living movement, limited public resources restrict the realisation of these policy changes in many countries. Even in a welfare state like Sweden, provisions of personal assistance are currently being cut down. It has thus become clear that the development of disability policies does not necessarily mean continuous progress. Backlashes are also possible and actually taking place, leading disabled people to lose their hard-won independence.

Temporality and change are a key feature of disability policies. What can we learn from the debates on disability and social care policies and the impacts of these policies on disabled people in different welfare states when we focus our look on the meaning of time? To what extent and how are disabled people supported by different care and disability policies and care work and personal assistance, including both formal and informal support systems and migrant care workers, and what are their impacts on the lives of disabled people and formal/informal carers/assistants? There is now also a need to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people, comparing it with the impact on non-disabled people. What does the pandemic as a sudden rupture in time reveal of disability policies? And what can we learn from disabled people’s experiential knowledge who in some societies have faced restrictions and isolation not just during the pandemic but during their entire life course?

This thematic panel aims at contributing to the above issues and questions from the perspectives of global policy, equality, and critical disability studies addressing the impact of time in social care policies and services on disabled people and related groups (e.g. family/friends, formal care workers, migrant care workers).

Thematic Panel 2: ECEC services after covid-19: searching to combine sustainability, safety, quality

Stefania Sabatinelli and Marta Cordini, Politecnico di Milano

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had inevitable serious impacts on ECEC services all over the world, linked to their relational nature. Both in professional and in informal settings, in fact, ECEC services consist of the fact that young children spend time with specifically dedicated adults and, in most cases, with their peers. The early age of children then implies that closeness and intimacy play a pivotal role in this relational dimension. The need of physical distancing caused in most countries the closing up of ECEC services, together with schools, already before the general lockdown was introduced. The re-opening of ECEC services has followed differentiated paths and timings in the different countries (or regions).

The most immediately visible entailments concerned the hard work-family balance for those parents whose work was not suspended during the lockdown, either in the workplace or in home-working, who were obliged to carry out their professional and childcare activities in the same place, at the same time. Besides, the exceptional and unprecedented situation brought about by the interruption of activity first and by the need to adapt the services’ organization to new safety criteria soon after, has had severe implications for the ECEC services systems themselves. In particular, the balance between the need of containing virus spreading and the pedagogical needs of children is challenging the usual design of ECEC services. The panel particularly seeks to deepen two broad dimensions:

  1. Sustainability and management issues, for public bodies, private providers and services’ workers, connected to the lack of revenues in the lockdown months and to the need to cope with new procedures to limit the risk of contagion and allow tracing, which all increase costs while generally reducing profitability (e.g. reduction of the adult-children ratio and of the children admitted per sqmt, increased expenses for cleaning and protection devices, etc.), and often translate into a reorganization of opening hours (as well as of space), that impacts on the care time that can be ensured.
  2. Educational and quality issues, related to the need to prevent the regression of childcare to mere custodial functions, in contrast with the social investment principles, that value the temporal perspective of individual and collective returns expected in the future for financial investments in educational policies. There is a fundamental necessity to avoid that the new safety and protection procedures hinder the didactic value of ECEC services and to rather elaborate a sense-making thought to innovate pedagogic protocols usefully integrating such procedures.

More in general, the pandemic has exacerbated the uncertainty conditions in which it is necessary to operate to manage care services. The compression of the dimension of time in the decision-making processes also needs to be taken into account when analyzing the reorganization of ECEC services after the outburst of covid-19.

The panel welcomes papers reflecting on the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on the ECEC services in one specific context or comparing more than one national or regional/local case. Particularly welcome are papers that combine empirical evidence with theoretical reflections.

Thematic Panel 1: Intersectionality in Care

Simone Leiber, University of Duisburg-Essen
Hildegard Theobald, University of Vechta

The concept of intersectionality has become an important paradigm in gender and care studies. Instead of merely adding up discriminatory effects based on different structural categories, theorists of intersectionality underline the interwoven nature of these categories, and how they can mutually reinforce, but also counterbalance each other (Crenshaw 1989). The conception of intersectionality is often used to analyse the interdependence of class, gender, and ethnicity, but allows also for the integration of other socially defined categories like e.g. sexuality, age, health status, nationality or disability. Theoretical and methodological reasoning on intersectionality has significantly expanded in different disciplinary contexts. In particular (comparative) empirical studies are, however, rather rare, and methodological as well as theoretical discussions are all but completed.
In this thematic panel we seek to explicitly relate research discussions on intersectionality to the care field, and to questions of temporality in care. How do interactions between differentiating categories develop in a care situation? How do we measure and analyse inequalities in care through this analytical lens – be it from the perspective of formal or informal caregivers, or care recipients? What is the role of care policies in either reinforcing or counterbalancing such inequalities? These topics imply to take into account also important aspects of temporality in care. We assume, e.g., that the division of time for care and for work differs considerably according to class, gender, ethnicity and other social lines, and that intersectional inequalities evolve along the life-course.
The thematic panel seeks to enhance international exchange on theoretical or methodological questions, as well as empirical results on intersectionality in care. We invite (comparative) studies from different care fields (childcare, eldercare, self-care …), and different regional contexts across the world to enhance our knowledge.