Do they look after their own? Informal support for South Asian carers
Baker, Mark R
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Policy on care in the community was founded on the premise that the care of frail elderly people with disabilities would be a joint responsibility for health and social care professionals, and family carers, supported by people within their social networks. The policy assumes that such social networks are common features of all communities in contemporary Britain, containing a reserve of people who can be called upon to provide support to carers. The present paper draws on material gathered for a qualitative study of the experiences carers in South Asian communities to examine the quality and quantity of informal support that was available in different types of households. Male and female carers were selected from the Punjabi Sikh, Gujarati Hindu, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities. A total of 105 carers participated in the project. Participants were caring for people in all age groups with physical and/or mental distress, and in some cases, with multiple and complex impairments. The analysis of carers’ accounts suggested that, for a variety of reasons, the main carer, irrespective of gender, had limited support both in nuclear and extended households. In addition, societal attitudes towards disability and the fear of obligation prevented the seeking and accepting of help from wider social networks. The paper concludes that the evidence does not support the assumption about extended families, and their willingness and ability to support carers. Many issues highlighted in this paper have far-reaching implications for policy makers in many countries in the West where South Asian people have made their homes.