Care in times of covid

In this blog Sarah Crafter reflects on discussions amongst the CCoM team about care, covid-19 and young migrants who travel alone. The blog also raises worrying concerns within the media and from the third sector for the number of vulnerable young people going missing, becoming homeless and being disconnected. 

In our project the concept of ‘care’ has been discussed by the team in many different forms and ways. A fundamental feature of care during the conception of the project was that it was something that lone migrants could provide for each other. Drawing on the care literature, it involves being ‘cared for’ and ‘cared by’ and that care involves ‘everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair’ ourselves, others, and our worlds (Tronto, 1993: 103). We have sought to capture the multidimensional aspects of care (see below for some of the resources we draw on to help us understand the concept of care):

  • That it is deeply relational and social
  • That there is a time dimension – care may change over time, be of long or short duration. Care is also influenced by our past relationships and potential future relationships
  • That it involves power inequalities, obligation and reciprocity – especially along class, genders and racialised lines
  • That care involves space and is embodied – meaning that care involves relationships that are close to us and distal to us
  • That care may also involve objects or artifacts of social practice (e.g. connections through the use of a phone
  • That care is linked by the historical structures of our pasts, relationships to people, places, through colonialism

In a recent team meeting we were discussing the impact that covid-19 has had on our research at the moment and what it might mean for us and those involved in our research moving forward. We talked about how every aspect of care that we would normally expect has stopped or been turned upon its head. Movement across spaces has become static. When we think about proximity of care, does distance now mean being safer than closeness? We are caught in a time of stillness rather than movement. What does this mean for young people to care for each other of be cared for? What new meanings arise when caring for others means keeping them at arms length to keep them safe?  What are the altered continuities of care now things are shifting?

As our team attempted to grapple with what all this might mean for our project, our participants, ourselves, our communities and society – we are talking of a kind of rupture. When I talk about rupture, I am talking about the way in which our ordinary expectations for change are interrupted in a way that creates long term and sometimes enduring consequences. As we look at these turning points or critical moments, it may not be possible to see their consequences – what may be open or closed for some time to come. What adjustments might need to be made, or what might settle down to what was before.

What is clear, is that there are deep and problematic ruptures occurring in the lives of vulnerable lone child migrants right at this moment. As a report from The Guardian on the 6th of June detailed, there is alarm felt within the third sector at the number of lone child migrants going missing. The article discusses children being targeted by criminals and traffickers, those unhappy with the foster care arrangements leaving without a trace and others dropping out from any social services. Not mentioned in the article, but certainly something being raised within the CCoM project, is the way in which young people may be removing themselves from accommodation, perhaps because of cases of covid-19 within the building or because circumstances living with carers is untenable. One charity worker told us that the current situation under covid-19 has made it almost impossible to care for newly arriving children, who find it difficult to connect with existing online group activities – either because they don’t know about the groups, do not have the technological capability to join them, or do not have a shared language in order to access them.

The disconnect in our spaces of care, that ability to meet in person, cross the threshold of a front door or room, has been severely disrupted. So, what are the altered continuities of care now things are shifting? Who is being failed, and how?

Resources that helped inform this blog:

Bowlby, Sally. (2012). Recognising the Time—Space Dimensions of Care: Caringscapes and Carescapes. Environment and Planning A, 44(9), 2101-2118

Raghuram, Parvati., Madge, Clare. and Noxolo, Pat. (2009). Rethinking responsibility and care for a postcolonial world. Geoforum, 40(1), 5-13.

Townsend, M. (2020). Number of missing vulnerable children soars as safeguarding is cut during pandemic. Retrieved 6th June, 2020.

Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral Boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. New York ; London: Routledge.

Zittoun, T. (2014). Transitions as dynamic processes – a commentary. Learning, Culture and Social Internation, Vol. 3, 232-236.