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Informal care in farming families in Northern Ireland: some considerations for social work

This paper is the result of a study of the dynamics of care-giving within farming families in Northern Ireland. It is argued that whilst much is known about informal care, existing knowledge is largely urban based and quantitative, and therefore limited. Following in-depth interviews with 'farm wives' it is concluded that for these women care-giving patterns are dependent on a particular set of cultural expectations and norms. Within farming families there is much resistance to becoming involved with formal social services. Outside help with the care of one's elderly relatives is often seen as an admission of failure, as there is a pride in being able to look after one's family members. Users of social services, which still evoke associations with the Poor Law, are highly stigmatized. It is claimed that for these women the concept of 'carer' has no bearing on their lives and is not something to which they can relate. The paper challenges the depiction of caring as a one-sided difficult relationship where the person being cared for is a passive recipient. It is suggested that caring is not necessarily oppressive but may be rewarding and positive. It concludes that if social workers are to support and facilitate informal care they must be aware of and fully understand the diversity of care provision and the different contexts in which care is undertaken. If intervention is to take place then it must be sensitive to the deeply embedded ideas and perceptions that exist within farming families.

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British Journal of Social Work

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Social care online
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