The British newspaper famous for its courageous investigative journalism on many different fronts wins my prize for the best reporting of the year on paid care work.
A series of related articles, available in gallery format, address the underpayment of care workers in the U.K., recently dramatized by a report that 100 care agencies in the country are under investigation for failure to pay the national minimum wage.
Similar cases of “wage theft” in the U.S. haven’t received nearly as much attention here. Nor has the political struggle in the U.S. to extend the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to home care workers received more than a glance in mainstream media. (For thoughts on what happened last year in the U.S., see “What Happens When the Person Taking Care of Your Mom Can’t Earn a Living Wage” by Lisa Dodson and myself, at the American Prospect.)
In Britain, the term “social care” is often used to designate the provision of social work, personal care, protection or social support to children or adults in need or at risk, or adults with needs arising from illness, disability, old age or poverty. British policy takes a distinctive approach, providing funds to local communities to contract with private providers for services. The Guardian points to social care as an important and undervalued sector of the economy. It also points to the links between low pay and poor working conditions for employees and poor services for “consumers.”
We need more comparative international research exploring the links between institutional arrangements and care outcomes. We also need more journalists in the U.S. to publicize these issues.