May 11 2004
The ‘Care ethic to care ethos’ report launched today at BT’s Agile Business: Connected Lives conference in London, argues that the UK’s care ethos is in danger as people reserve care for close family and friends.
The report, which was co-authored by BT and Intelligence Agency, a research consultancy, investigates the current issues surrounding the ‘care crisis’, or ‘care deficit’ debate. It found that there is no collapse in caring relationships or caring attitudes but scarcity of time and increase in geographical mobility have taken their toll. On a more positive note, communications technology has increased the possibilities of maintaining caring links because it has the potential to increase personal time and lower the ‘care hurdle’ of distance.
Individuals tend to surround themselves with circles of care, which begin with immediate family and then extend outwards through friends to broader society. There is little evidence that the inner circles of care are shrinking but there is evidence that the boundaries of the care circles are hardening. Instead of expansive, overlapping circles of care we are beginning to see ‘fortress islands’ of care.
Caroline Waters, director of People Networks, BT Group, said: “People’s desire to connect with each other and with society has been one of the drivers behind broadband. It has been a great enabler and we believe that it will help penetrate the walls that have developed in modern society. It offers the ever-increasing opportunity to connect the lives of an increasingly diverse population. Broadband has changed the way people engage with the internet, making it an integral part of their every day lives. It is this integration into daily life that has helped many people maintain better contact with their care circles. It is proving to be a gateway to a world of infinite possibilities that can liberate personal time and change our lives for the better both at home and at work.”
The Agile Business: Connected Lives conference demonstrates the way broadband’s inclusive technology brings enormous benefit to people from many diverse backgrounds. BT has created a number of showcases, which demonstrate the many benefits that broadband has for people communities and from all walks of life, whether they are MDs developing their businesses, children doing their homework, disabled people wanting to work remotely, or lone parents.
The mass take-up of broadband is revolutionising society by realising the original promise of the internet. As people are connected to services, they are able to work and learn remotely and a wealth of knowledge and information is opened up for all. The report highlights that care is diluted by the loss of, or diminution of contact; staying ‘in touch’ using technology of one kind or another can offset the diluting effect of distance. Although physical proximity is necessary for the performance of many acts of care, the giving of time and attention can now occur across the miles.
Richard Reeves, director of Intelligence Agency, said: “Broadband is one of many possible solutions. Technology has the capacity to more directly influence the provision of care, both within caring professions and more widely. Care relies critically on connection and on time. Used well, communications technologies can make connections and save time. Technology can help carers – whether professional or personal – to keep in touch with the welfare of vulnerable people, such as the elderly.
“A caring society requires the strong networks of family and friends in personal communities. But it requires a broader and deeper commitment – from individuals and institutions alike – to look beyond our immediate borders. Care is a priceless private good, but not that alone. It lives – or dies – in the public domain, too. What is clear is that improving the care ethos, the fabric of care, is principally a task for individuals rather than institutions. The public good of care can only be produced by the collective results of millions of individual interventions and interactions. The reciprocity norm means that if we want a more caring society – to shift from a ‘low-care equilibrium’ to a ‘high-care equilibrium’ - the only way to get it is to be more caring ourselves. The notion of a ‘good turn’ sounds antiquated but perhaps it is nonetheless time to dust it off?”