Opinion: What constitutes front-line work

You don’t have to be a paid worker to be on the front line of social care, writes Jennifer Harvey

I will be leaving my job soon after nine-and-a-half years. Not bad, considering the original contract was for six months.

This did set me thinking about what actually constitutes “being on the front line” of community care, and I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be a paid worker.

So I expect I’ll stay on the front line as a family carer regardless of my next job.

Like many women who had their families young in the 1970s and 1980s, I did a lot of work that was home-based and also some voluntary work. I don’t consider any of that to be less valuable than the work I’ve done more recently.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be paid a decent wage, but there was more prejudice then against women with young families, and less child care.

So, among other things, I did childminding to make ends meet. That was definitely the front line. Those old side-by-side double buggies just didn’t fit through doorways, and they weren’t big on ramps then either.

Taking out a black and a white child together could result in a stream of racist abuse which I would like to think wouldn’t happen these days.

Then there was the fostering of teenagers. One of the girls I fostered is a grandmother now. But when you have your first child at 16, like she did, it’s easy to be a grandmother when most people these days are still contemplating parenthood.

I should add that she’s not just a grandmother. The last I heard she was on £30,000 a year and drove a company car. I wouldn’t advise anyone to have kids that young, but it doesn’t necessarily turn you into Vicky Pollard.

Then there was voluntary work, like the kids on probation whom we took to the Peak District. They learned new skills and ways to enjoy themselves without hurting anyone.

There’s more than one way of being on the front line. I think I’ll be staying there a while longer.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning difficulties

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