The value of independence is a key message in the green paper on
adult care services. It is seen as a prerequisite to a good quality
of life. A fundamental aim of any care plan is to maximise a
client’s independence. But most people’s idea of a good quality of
life is more about interdependence. To care and be cared for.
A state of independence is a desired option for many governments.
The more independent we are the less of a nuisance and burden we
are. Blair is the natural heir to Thatcher who famously said there
was no such thing as society. A society assumes we have a
responsibility to one another. Society suggests interdependence. It
is not a comfortable culture for the corporate world to thrive in.
Independence can sit perfectly well with being isolated in a
rundown bedsit, subsisting on a slave wage. Interdependence would
not allow it so easily.
The government television campaign against welfare fraud, We’re
Watching You, stigmatised unemployed people as “spongers”. Yet
welfare fraud makes up less than 1 per cent of total UK fraud, far
less than £1bn a year. Business fraud weighs in at £14bn.
So why are there no TV campaigns against these guys?
Perhaps it is a message for the rest of the population -Êto
fear unemployment. To fear anything less than full independence.
That way people are more likely to accept the low paid work that
makes up a big proportion of the new jobs. Independent? That’s OK
Dependence should not be a dirty word. Our quality of life depends
on each other: from family, friends, colleagues and lovers to
George Bush and the stranger in the street. It is when the
dependence is unmeasured, taking without giving, do our lives
become unbalanced and unfulfilled.
The Dalai Lama said: “If you contribute to other people’s
happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”
I guess as social care practitioners we already have some inkling
of this. What we know for ourselves is true for those to whom we
provide care. They too need to be given the opportunity to care. A
person living in a rehabilitation home who can visit and give
support to a friend living alone is a person on the road to
Interdependence sees the strings between people. Pull them and
together we’ll dance.
Nigel Leaney manages a mental health residential