When the BBC Radio 4 proclaimed on the news this morning that people who volunteer could be rewarded with credit to their own care-time accounts, I thought I had woken up in a dystopic nightmare.
I completely advocate volunteering, probably spending more of my freed time doing it than paid work, and I am a trustee for the Volunteering Bureau in my home town. But to capitalise on "rewarding" volunteering is a diabolical proposition.
The very proposal negates the responsibility of family, neighbours and the state to protect older and disabled persons.
We are fast approaching a 50/50 divide of retired and employed persons in the UK, and in spite of this, older people and disabled people are getting less and less funding on a local level.
I have applauded the coalition's approach to raising the pension, maintaining free bus passes and universal winter fuel allowance. But this does not mean they can justify removing care systems that are integral to old age and replace it with volunteers.
Regular readers know that Wardens and their demise are a bugbear of mine. There is evidence to show Councils and Housing Associations are not consulting their tenants properly or legally, and yet Older people are still abused by process.
Now we are supposed to accept volunteers to maintain community care?
"Hureai Kippu", the Japanese scheme to support older people, translates into "Caring Relationship Tickets". Tickets for what exactly?
How exactly do we propose to measure this? I am disabled and my husband technically cares for me*. Does this mean he has an enormous account, or does he have to care for strangers to accrue this valueless reward system?
Firstly, how do we define care? From personal experience, care can range from washing my hair for me through to carrying my shopping. However, I know a great deal of non disabled couples where the husband will carry the shopping. Do they all register as carers?
Alternatively, will they declare on 1st January 2011 that all "carers" accrue credit for the hours they give. They must register these hours how exactly? My husband hoovers as I cannot lift the appliance, why does he not gather a backlog of accrued hours?
Are we not, in fact, discriminating against future generations of Older People by introducing this scheme? By stating that Pensioners and Disabled persons of today are entitled to more support than those in 2020 or 2040? [a digressive post on inchoate discriination is well overdue I feel].
Ultimately Volunteers are no substitute for trained care. They are not accountable to employment regulations, nor are they bound by them. To introduce such regulation would negate the very word "volunteer".
Where would the proposed scheme draw the line between trained staff and volunteers?
I could go on.
Now for the Sarcastic Bit
In my understanding of society we have a system of credit for work done, I believe we call it pound sterling.
* I have arthritis, this means I cannot do some things, like peel vegetables or carry more than 2kg. Sometimes I cannot cut up my own food. However, I still work full time and although I am awarded DLA, I do not claim for my husband as my carer, nor does he claim. We see it as part of our relationship.