Social Care: Maintaining Each Other

06/08/2020 5:00 pm

Essential Work Virtual Series, Episode 2

Co-hosted by Festival of Maintenance & The Maintainers

The Festival of Maintenance is a UK based event whose aim is to celebrate those who maintain different parts of our world, and how they do it. For us, this means active recognition of the often hidden work done in repair, custodianship, stewardship, tending and caring for the things that matter. The Maintainers, a global research network interested in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world. Through this co-hosted virtual event series, we plan to explore specific areas of maintenance work that are both essential and chronically undervalued. In each event, we’ll provide speakers that reflect the political, cultural, and economic realities in both the United Kingdom and the United States.


This virtual discussion focuses on social care and what maintainers can learn from more formal care relationships. We explored various dimensions of social care – such as paid and unpaid assistance for children, adults, and the elderly. We explored how these relationships are valued and measured (or if they can be measured at all), and if the language and structures we use for this essential activity are useful or obstructive. With so much maintenance activity falling outside of market-based interactions, how can we classify this essential human experience, of caregiving and being cared for? This discussion featured three experts on social care in the United States and United Kingdom.


Jamie Hale is a disabled poet, essayist, and researcher and journalist in health and social care policy, as well as chair of Lewisham Disabled People’s Commission, carrying out research into the position of disabled people in the borough. As someone who manages their own care package, they’ve learned to become an expert in everything from employment law to HR and advice. They are passionate about funding social care based on self-determined outcomes, rather than budgetary constraints.

Stephanie Hoopes, PhD, is the National Director of United For ALICE, an innovation center around Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households working with United Ways across the country to inform policy and promote positive change ( Dr. Hoopes’ research has garnered both state and national media attention. Dr. Hoopes has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College. In her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Dr. Hoopes serves on the board of the Woodlawn Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum, and the Kennett Pike Association.

Lydia Nicholas is an anthropologist whose research and writing centres on health, care, data, culture and the places where these issues intersect. She uses creative participatory methods to develop visions of better care futures and support policy change to bring those about. She was a senior researcher at Nesta, Programme Manager at Doteveryone, and now consults for organisations including Health Foundation and Open Society Foundation. When not in foresight and policy she also performs stand-up comedy and podcasts, exploring the stranger sides of science & culture.

Discussion Questions

  • The plans to combine social care within the NHS’s (United Kingdom National Health Service) remit has attracted a lot of questions because there is the danger of pathologizing care, since it treats day to day living as if it is an illness, however it may also help us understand social care a little bit better. What are you thoughts on this?
  • From a macro level, are there any examples of measurements that can inform us on the deteriorating working conditions of professionals in the social care field? How is impact measured?
  • Can you share how you approach your work as an advocate in relation to your creative/artistic projects? (Question for Jamie Hale).
  •  Is there’s anything that can gives us hope on the measurement questions and are there ways to improve the data and feedback the qualitative experience and design of systems that exist but aren’t being used?