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Sara Lei Sparre

Between care and contract: Ageing immigrants, self-appointed helpers and ambiguous belonging in the Danish welfare state

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In Europe, a growing population of ageing citizens have immigrant background, and many have their origin in non-Western countries. Often, care arrangements in these families are different from those of the majority populations. In Denmark, a growing number of immigrant families utilise an option in the Social Service Act, under which municipalities can contract a family member to take care of an elderly citizen at home. Due to the special construct of the ‘self-appointed helper arrangement’, the caregiver is both a professional care worker, formally employed by the municipality, and a close relative. As such, the arrangement provides a unique opportunity to examine ideas and practices of care at the intersection of the immigrant family and the state.
Based on data from interviews with and observations among both ethnic minority families and municipal care managers, we explore consequences of this care scheme for care arrangements in immigrant families. Drawing on the concept of ‘lenticular subject positions’, we show how both the self-appointed helpers and the care managers adopt two different, often contradictory, perspectives or subject positions simultaneously.
Overall, we argue that in practice, the self-appointed helper arrangement is a grey zone in public health care and welfare administration in Denmark. Both care managers and helpers seems to accept to neglect legislation and standard procedures. The consequences are most severe for the self-appointed helpers who end up in a particular precarious position at the Danish labor market.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAgeing & Society
Publication statusSubmitted - 20 Dec 2019

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