‘Care’: Moral concept or merely an organisational suffix?

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BackgroundOver recent decades, a couple of interesting trends have occurred in regard to human services practices in Australia. First, there has been a significant shift from practices that previously have intentionally responded to emerging and continuing human need within communities to practices that are now managed within a context of managerialism and influenced by market forces. Second, in such a changing context, increasingly, organisations have added the suffix ‘care’ to their organisational name. One is therefore left to consider why this latter change has occurred, and how is care being considered, particularly in organisations supporting people with intellectual disability (ID).MethodA conceptual-theoretical analysis is undertaken to explore the characteristics of human services that embrace managerialism. The moral constructions of personhood in regard to people with ID within this service context are investigated; and the implications of how care is practised are considered.ResultsAn immoral-amoral binary of personhood within an underpinning neo-liberal context is identified and analysed. Further analysis reveals a more insidious independent–dependent binary for people with an ID linked to a dominating Ethic of Normalcy. This latter binary suggests that care seemingly becomes neither ethically relevant nor legitimate for people with ID in managerialist service contexts.ConclusionsEthical transformation in regard to care is needed for contemporary human services practice for people with ID. The underpinning Ethic of Normalcy is challenged for an Ethic of Engagement; whereby a deep understanding of care as a moral concept needs to be at the core of practice, rather than merely attached in an organisational name.

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