Thursday, 15 March 2012

Social Identity and Social Care

Do you prefer to shop in Asda, Morrisons, Sainburys, or Tesco (or any other supermarket). Chances are that you prefer one over the rest even if shop around. It is all to do with social identity and supermarkets often market their image to appeal to a particular social identity. The same is true of newspapers, cars and even political parties.

The issue of our identity becomes more complicated because we combine these various elements to form our identity and differences with others. Two people could both be Guardian reading, Asda shoppers and would have that in common but equally one may be a Labour supporter and one may be a LibDem, so both would consider themselves to be different to the other.

There is a link between social identity and self-esteem, if we can find ‘our place’ in the world we can be considerably more content in our overall well-being.  There are of course, extremes as can be seen in the crowd mentality of football team supporters but social identity seems to be an integral part of being human.

We are all different, we define ourselves as much by who we are not as by who we are and often our social identity defines the choices we make about our lives. Because of that the ‘market’ panders to our wishes in terms of supplying goods and services that we can identify with.

With a serious exception – Social Care

The provision of social care is a market economy nowadays with around 80% of all care provision being supplied by private organisations (Companies & Charities). Now this change has been relatively rapid and the ‘market’ may not have fully established itself but there does need to be a consideration of this if we are to provide services that truly support individuals.

This has to be a key element to the personalisation agenda.

Let’s be brutally honestyou will have chosen to avoid certain people and certain places and you will have made choices that you feel are ‘more’ you.

Are the same sorts of choices available in social care provision? And to what extant do assessments of those who may need social care services look beyond the physical needs of the individual to the needs of sustaining their social identity.

Helping to maintain a person’s social identity is important for mental well-being. Imagine if you were left with no choice in any service you needed, how frustrating it would be to be placed in the company of others that you had little in common with or your day was dictated by what others considered good.

In our everyday lives we choose who we wish to spend time with and generally we choose people who share the same ideas, enthusiasms and outlook on life. Obviously there are times when we have to ‘put up’ with people at work etc. but we will always chose to spend our more intimate moments with friends. So what does it feel like to a person who has to have personal intimate care from somebody they have had no choice in selecting?

Our social identity is the core of who we are and it seems wrong that just because age means we may need support and care from others that this social identity is taken away by lack of choice in social care services.