Between Care and Contract: Aging Muslim Immigrants, Self-appointed Helpers and Ambiguous Belonging in the Danish Welfare State
Keywords:Care, Aging, Welfare state, Lenticular subject position, Immigrant family, Care manager, Denmark
In Europe, a growing population of aging citizens have migrant 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 immigrant families and municipal care managers, we explore consequences of this care scheme for aging citizens and their self-appointed helpers. 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.
In all, we argue that the self-appointed helper arrangement constitutes a grey zone in the Danish public health care system, since both care managers and helpers seem to neglect the national legislation and standard procedures, in relation to the elders and the general work environment. The consequences are most severe for the self-appointed helpers who end up in a particular precarious position at the margins of the Danish labor market.
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