Sunday, February 22, 2015


Jargon alert. There's a new phrase that affects foster carers.

'Emotional Labour'

I heard it on a Five Live interview this afternoon, talking about the work and pay for people who do general caring. The interview centred on the new buzz-phrase; 'emotional labour'.

When I first heard them say the phrase I guessed she meant that when you are caring you use up emotional labour in the same way that people digging roads use physical labour and people who are trying to find the Hose-Bigson particle use brain labour.


According to the interview, 'emotional labour' is where you work in a job that gives you positive emotions about your work. If your work makes you feel good some employers will try to pay you less.

There's a lot of this sort of squeezing about,  zero hour contracts for example. If loads of people apply for one job the employer can run the pay down to the floor. I once drove to work in my new (second hand) mini which my parents bought me because they wanted to and the financial director saw me park it outside the building and ordered I got a pay cut because he said if I could afford a mini they were paying me too much. True.

People who get a good feeling from their work should never be shorn of money because they love what they do.

It simply will not happen in fostering, that much I do know for sure.

How does it work for people in other caring professions? Take nurses for example, they may help make someone better and get a good feeling. They also have to deal with someone dying on their watch. It cuts both ways. But they remain badly paid, as do many teachers, in my book.

We foster carers are appropriately compensated for our work - it's not called 'pay' or 'a salary' because HMRC recognise we are a special case.

Every foster child is different. The 'emotional labour' is unique. The remuneration is based on a general rate, although there are special circumstances that can result in an increase in the money you recieve.

I had one wonderful child stay with us for about 8 weeks if I remember. I say 'if I remember" because it was a bit of a roller coaster, it was hard work and yet we all made some progress. A week later we had a new placement, a wonderful boy who actually added more to our family than was there before he came. Which is something that happens a lot in fostering.

The one thing your employer will never, ever do in fostering, whether it's an agency or a local authourity, is to say to you "Your foster child makes you feel fantastic, so that's going to mean a cut in your allowance." Not never, no day no how.

In fostering, 'Emotional Labour' can take a long walk off a short pier.


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