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Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care

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Labours of Love is an attempt to give voice to those working in the vastly undervalued and underfunded sector that is care work. Bunting argues that ‘care is the feminist issue’ (3) because its burdens fall unevenly on (some) women. While understandably not within the scope of this book, it would be interesting to read more about how those health systems – which are a mix of public and private provision – balance market forces, tight government budgets and the humane, intangible side of care. At times I had to put it down to wipe away tears, at times as I was angry and again reflective and thoughtful. But Labours of Love is an important and unsettling reminder that we can’t afford to wait for the next crisis, because the health system on which we all depend is itself in intensive care.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Blending these testimonies with a history and language of care, and with her own experiences of caring for the young and old in her family, 'Labours of Love' paints a portrait of our nation today - and of how it might be. After trying her best to cope, a frankly disillusioned graduate, felt obliterated by her job in high-end homes. Missing as well is any concern with the environment, and the need to care not just for each other, but for the world itself—all issues highlighted in The Care Manifesto, which I co-authored as part of The Care Collective (and reviewed in the previous issue of PQ).They were working harder than ever, often still living with ‘in-work poverty’, their lives frequently at risk, and many already snuffed out by Covid-19. However, I did love hearing more from Marion Coutts, the author of the 2015 Wellcome Book Prize winner, The Iceberg, about her husband’s death from brain cancer. The assumption that women will provide care to the sick and elderly within their family remains pervasive yet Bunting notes, not viable.

As so many aspects of our lives become automated, love and care is one that will continue to need humanity to deliver it and all those who work in it deserve our support. Humane, perceptive, honest, compassionate, wide-ranging, and erudite, it is a profound inquiry into the most important social issue of our time. I read a lot of books but I don't always find ones that have been so effective in enabling me to change and develop my understanding of an issue. From 2012-14, she led a team as Editorial Director of Strategy, working on a project around reimagining the institution of a newspaper and its relationship with readers.As we seek to rebuild society post-pandemic, this book suggests a possible future where investment in care is an economic, as well as a moral, imperative. Where this approach has resulted in poor care, such as in the notorious case of Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, health managers respond with programmes and associated performance indicators to promote compassion, as if this can be legislated and quantified. She wrote about a wide range of subjects including Islam, faith, global development, politics and social change. Bunting captures the commitment of many care workers who, while knowing themselves demeaned as ‘just’ carers, suggest to her: ‘I am not bothered.

Remarkables REMARKABLES Intriguing, stunning, or otherwise remarkable books These include fine editions, foreign publications that are exceptional for their interest or production, special editions and some first-rate books from very small publishers. Care packages” are “delivered”; satisfaction questionnaires are ubiquitous – nurses are accused of not showing enough “empathy”. Perennials PERENNIALS constant friends A selection of novels, memoirs and more by some of our favourite authors.This book should be required reading for anyone interested in care and, as she shows, we probably all should be. This odd dismissal comes from her reducing feminism from its beginning to a largely media celebrated liberal variant of aspirational feminism. This book made me feel alternately happy and sad - the idea of 'care' is bandied about so lightly as if it is easy to do, but Bunting makes clear that it is absolutely a skilled and technical job - just one that is undervalued and easy to misunderstand. Nurses are aware that they are involved in a performance but know the giving of care must never appear routine. Suddenly, the past decade of underinvestment in health and social care took centre stage in political discourse, and the poorly paid labour of social care workers was deemed essential.

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