should take responsibility for their own problems (
). Linders argues policy should focus on making it easier for people both to offer and ask for help
(for example ‘asset
based’ approaches which
build informal links)
and that this would do more to lead to growth of informal care than tackling any perceived shortage of supply (for example efforts to increase volunteering). 4.
Policy too often relies
on outdated notions of ‘neighbourliness’….
Another reason policy often fails to facilitate mutual aid is because it assumes
‘community cohesion’ leads to people helping each other more
. However research carried out in the Drents Dorp area of Eindhoven found that people
who feel strongly about their neighbourhood are no more likely to support someone nearby than anyone else
. What support is given tends to be as a result of personal relationships between two neighbours borne out of physical proximity, rather than any collective sense of community solidarity. Many people actually wanted to keep some distance from their neighbours.
This suggests if facilitating mutual aid is to be an aim of policy, it needs to be about connecting people who live close to each other or who have a reciprocal need, rather
efforts to increase ‘community cohesion’.
An agenda for
needs to be carefully crafted in times of austerity
Building a political agenda around active citizenship and personal responsibility can help mobilise deep reserves of energy and enthusiasm. But in times of economic hardship, with people often struggling to fulfil work and home responsibilities, many people will resent being told they should be doing more. In the Netherlands, there was initially strong public support for radical social reforms to the state, due in part to expectations that this would keep rising healthcare premiums down. However, as one worker in an Eindhoven self-help
group explained, “they have shifted some of the welfare state onto individuals.
While it is good we are doing more for ourselves and each other, the message
we get is ‘you are on your own’”, she says.
‘‘If we are s
cared to depend on each other, how will we achieve our goal of the caring society?