People, Care and Work in the Home

It would be hard to find a more important time for the publication of People, Care and Work in the Home. These last months have brought to the forefront of all our lives the importance of the home and the people, work and care that happens within them.

The book, published this week with Routledge, brings together academic and professional expertise in these fields, first gathered at the 2017 4th International HRF Conference: “A Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing.”

What was clear at the conference was that these vital things – growth and wellbeing  – do not just “happen.” For strong, healthy individuals, families and communities there needs to be attention paid and support given to the frontline of where these patterns begin – at home.

Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Professor Antonio Argandoña, editors of People, Care and Work in the Home have worked with contributors to bring to wider attention this multidisciplinary approach to society’s key building blocks.

Sir Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde, and former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, underlines the importance of home for life-long health and healthy relationships in his contribution to the publication:

Sir Harry Burns“From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives. Children who experience a nurturing, safe upbringing are likely, as adults, to create a positive home environment for their own children and so, positive outcomes for families are handed on to the next generation.”

If those early experiences are not positive the results are less happy, less healthy for individuals and for society – examples of which are not hard to find.

This recent pandemic, the lockdown and enforced time at home together has given new energy to those determined to champion the unique and priceless role it plays in our lives. In the words of Professor Argandoña:

“The home grows with solidarity, sharing everything. And the most complete way of sharing is love, that is, to take care of others. That is what we learn at home throughout our lives, although in a different way at each stage of that life. In this period of confinement we have learned to live together, ignoring the deficiencies of others; to share, that is, to give and give ourselves.”

People, Care and Work in the Home is a very important articulation of that insight to inform both research and policy in how we value what is given and what is received at home.

We have won!

MovementforGoodAward: HRF has won!!! 13,695 foundations were nominated for awards and more than 250,000 people voted! We are one of the 500 foundations receiving it!!! THANK YOU for your support and thanks Ecclesiastical for organising the Awards.

You made this possible. We requested via email and social media networks that you voted for our think tank, which for the past 14 years has made enormous efforts to make visible the critical work of the running of the home.

Each award, according to Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive at Ecclesiastical, will make a positive difference. In our case, the funding will allow us to continue promoting the Communication Report on “Home in the time of Coronavirus” by translating it into different languages. At the Home Renaissance Foundation, we know that every little push counts because small projects lead to great achievements, such as our latest publication People, Care and Work in the Home that will be published next Tuesday, June 16.

Much effort has gone into the production of the book spanning several years following the Conference held on the subject in 2017, which brought together prestigious academics and professionals from the Public Health and Care sector. During that gathering, workshops were also organised in which researchers from different fields were able to share their findings from the perspective of the home.

Edited by Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem in conjunction with Professor Emeritus Antonio Argandoña, and published by the prestigious Routledge, the book contains 17 fascinating contributions with insights into the care of the home and its members in various different ways throughout the world.

Covering three broad elements, as its title indicates, it begins by paying attention to caring for the person as the centre of our homes and, above all, delving into the critical care of the elderly, focusing on homes that provide for the needs of people with disabilities; and ends by highlighting the importance of the work that all this entails, analysing individual cases across the continents.

Without a doubt, as you can see, your support is crucial in giving back to the home the place it deserves, both socially and in public policy decision-making.

Home Truths

It is very early days to try to predict the long-term effects the coronavirus will have on our relationships with our homes. During this crisis, they have been seen as places of safety and security. For many of us, this has definitely been true as we have drawn strength from the solace and sanctuary of our homes and closest relationships.
It has not been the case for everyone though. A time of enforced lockdown in difficult physical or emotional circumstances has taken its toll on physical and mental health. Evidence-based investigation of what has really been happening in our homes is also at a very early stage, but anecdotal evidence suggests a number of factors that affect our experience of lockdown. This article looks at the positive aspects of these factors while recognising the very real implications of the negative ones.

Feeling in control
In a situation where there are so much fear and contradictory information in the wider world, keeping a sense of control in the small areas of domestic life is known to be beneficial. This sense of control or being able to order at least one part of our lives is seen in the increased order we are putting into our daily lives. This might be a more structured day, with regular work, meal and leisure times. It might be tidying and rearranging our home environment for optimal space and calm. It could be something as simple as planning the meals for the week, or sharing out domestic tasks. The key is that an order and a plan bring a sense of control at home that can strengthen us to deal with the things beyond our control. This is especially important in homes with young children or vulnerable family members. Predictable daily patterns are a source of great reassurance in such unpredictable times.

Respectful Relationships
There is no rule that we have to like everyone we live with, but when there is no getting away from them a modus vivendi is less a choice than a necessity. Respectful relationships recognise that people need different things and express themselves in different ways. That we can offend as much as we are offended. That we can praise as much as we need praise. The old adage “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing,” might have led to some quiet homes some days, but on the whole when no one can leave the house to cool off, this has not been the best time for “warts and all” candour.

Nature Cure
One of the telling distinctions of this crisis has been between those who have access to private outdoor space and those who do not. Again, anecdotally, there has been much in the press and elsewhere about the value of green spaces to our well-being. Those with gardens, backyards and balconies have had a social advantage at this time over those without. One of the harshest restrictions, after not being able to be with relatives, was the limit of time and activities outdoors. The ability to bring nature into the home has also been limited by the restrictions, but those who have shared this lockdown with pets have spoken of the very positive benefits of this over and above the difficulties. Similarly, even without a garden, schools have encouraged parents of children learning at home to grow plants from seeds, just using a window-ledge for small pots. These may seem tiny actions but the positive effect of tending and sharing space with the natural world bring far larger rewards.
The exercise of order, respect and care – for ourselves, those we live with and our environment – are human choices and disciplines which are largely independent of our personal circumstances. Those already suffering from the effects of poor housing, financial insecurity, ill-health, broken relationships, violence or addiction will have found this period harder to manage.

The next article in this series will look at some lessons for policy-makers from the places we all need to call home.

A big Thank you!

Two weeks ago we published the Communication Report: Home in the Time of Coronavirus.

“Congratulations on this report! What good voices and what good ideas!” from Argentina

We are very happy to see the great reception it has had. We have received hundreds of messages thanking us for this compilation of articles and testimonials. But the thanks are mutual. We are also very grateful to all the participants for not hesitating for a minute to say “Yes” to our proposal, and to all of you for receiving our news with such affection.

Many of the contributors to the Report have opened their hearts and closely shared what this quarantine means for them. This has allowed us to know more about what this virus is demanding of us as a society and as individuals. Without a doubt, the home has recovered its place as a vital centre and we must learn from the mistakes made before the virus.

“HRF is doing a fantastic job, furthermore, I enjoy the posts a lot. We are all in this together” from Thailand

The Report is a document that requires leisurely reading. We know that many of you have left the Report on file to read over the weekend. We remind you that there are six different chapters and that in them you can see how the different sectors have been facing the pandemic.

Those who have turned their home into a workplace, those who have made their offices into their homes as key workers. Those who have had enormous difficulties in surviving this situation because they live with people with disabilities who cannot stop receiving their therapies. But also those who are homeless, have lost their homes, and those whose homes are not safe places to live.

“Many congratulations on your report it represents an enormous effort on your part with a wonderful outcome which is entirely appropriate for these extraordinary times” from the UK

Covid19 has caused so many tragic deaths, but it has helped us to see the value of home. Our home now and always should be that place where one feels safe, cared for and loved. At HRF we are not going to stop working every day so that every human being has the chance to be born and grow in a stable and supportive home.

“I want to congratulate you for this very thoughtful initiative to produce a documentary about the Home and the context of the current pandemic” from Portugal

Home in the Time of Coronavirus

Responding to the coronavirus in relation to the Home, we have produced a Communication Report in which different personalities share their experience of what home is – and means – to them during this time of a pandemic.

You will find, among others, the testimony of Colin Brazier, Baroness Hollins, Bryan K. Sanderson, Jaume Duch, Mia Mikic, Carlos Herrera, Teri Agins…

People from Institutions, Journalism, Academia, and also from the first line of battle and with huge difficulties to cope with the virus.

Enjoy this Communication Report and share it if you like it. We are looking forward to reading your comments.

Home in the Time of Coronavirus 

The Value of Home Work

During this period of lockdown the internet has been buzzing with the activities that people have found helpful, therapeutic, or at least a welcome distraction at this time. There is no surprise that reading has proved popular,  along with learning new subjects and skills and watching some of the great live-streamed concerts and shows. More surprising, perhaps, has been the number of “quiz nights” taking place. This is possibly because it gives a context and purpose to our virtual social gatherings – or a substitute for all those missing competitive sport.

Most popular of all, though, has been work in the home. This has varied from ambitious DIY projects to long-postponed smaller endeavours, such as finally tidying the cupboard under the stairs.  In the UK, the news that B&Q was to reopen brought queues of householders, keen to buy equipment and materials to complete the home improvements they had embarked upon.

There are many reasons for this. One of the most obvious ones is that we have all been spending so much time at home that we have noticed that the hall really needs painting or that window fixing. It’s the same recognition that firms that sell sofas have when they bombard TV with adverts at Christmas, reckoning that we’ve all been sitting on our old sofas long enough to be persuaded to buy a new one.

In certain gift shops, you can often find a small, circular plate for sale with this message printed on them: “I am a ROUND TUIT – now you can do all those jobs you said you’d do when you got me!” In our homes, during quarantine or lockdown, there are few excuses for not “getting around to it” and hence the burgeoning maintenance activity in our homes.

There is something else too, something less tangible but more important. Janice Turner, a journalist writing in The Times, touched on this last week in her article “Is there a gadget that makes your family clean?”. Aside from some humour about task sharing, Turner notices the satisfaction that comes from really cleaning something properly. Be it the fridge, the windows or the kitchen floor, the drudgery aspect of cleaning that we felt when we had so much else to do, is replaced by a sense of calm and even pleasure.

It is easy to mock this realization and to see it as “what we are reduced to” in lockdown. Whereas, in fact, it is what is raised to our notice – not our dirty windows, but the physical and mental benefits of sorting them out. Anthropologists and psychologists will note the in-built need of humans to create safe spaces for ourselves and our dependents. Maintaining the safety and protective environment of our homes, as we have been forced to as a response to the coronavirus, has made explicit this implicit need.

The pleasure we might get from a clean fridge and mended windows is not just about a passing sense of achievement, but about caring for ourselves  (and many of us do find ourselves on our own at this time) and those we are sharing our homes with. Sharing that care, passing skills on to the next generation, transforms and renews not only these tasks but us in the process.

Amidst all the anxiety and the background “noise” of these strange days let us hope that the connection between our homes and our well-being is recognised – and that this stays with us when our doors open again.

Intergenerational Care in the time of Covid-19

One of the emerging themes of the current crisis is the awareness of a previous undervaluing of carers. As one carer has put it, “We have gone from ‘low-skilled’ workers to ‘key’ workers in less than a month – but our jobs remain the same, caring for the most vulnerable in our society.”

CARE is the simple word that will be on the new badges to be worn by workers in this sector, in recognition of what they do, and for the rest of us to recognise them as they go about their work. This simple word “care” is also a very precious one, but it has been open to misuse, or at least misapprehension in recent years.

Children removed from their birth parents in the UK are frequently described as “looked-after children”, or having been “taken into care”. Reports, and criminal trials, have shown that in many cases being looked after or shown care is far from what these youngsters have actually experienced. Using the word “care” hardly guarantees that this is what is being offered. This is no criticism of individual children and youth service social workers, but a fault-line in the whole of society’s responsibility to its most vulnerable members.

Care Homes are associated most often with the elderly and sufferers from dementia, but in fact a wide-range of needs and age of residents makes up this sector. Stories and coverage in the press in recent days have given a voice to those managing, under extremely difficult conditions, to keep these residents safe and indeed cared for. To this observer at least, the quiet, professional dignity and genuine compassion shown by care workers has been humbling and revealing.

For these are the people who do the jobs that many of us either cannot or will not do. The phrase “personal care” covers all the basic needs of keeping someone clean, fed and comfortable, but it is also about becoming a trusted presence in that person’s life while these intimate tasks are undertaken. To see this care as “low-skilled” is to misunderstand not just the value of care, but the meaning of being human.

On our screens have been carers, usually younger, often immigrant, almost always women, talking not about their pay, or their grievances, but about their worries for the people they are looking after. This intergenerational care is especially poignant at the moment, as the statistics for this disease tell of a stark age differential. The older and more infirm you are the more likely Covid-19 infection is to be fatal.

This has led to 1.5 million primarily older people to have been instructed to self-isolate for at least three months. The pattern of living in the UK means that for many of these 1.5 million it will be at least three months without seeing children or grandchildren. Those families who live with older relatives may have even more troubling concerns – how to protect grandparents while some household members have to go to out to work.

Bryan Sanderson CBE, Chairman of Home Renaissance Foundation offers a positive personal insight into this time as he acknowledges that social-distancing from grandchildren is particularly hard if, as his family are, we are used to spending time together. The new technology is a life-line, and keeping in contact via facetime, skype or zoom, makes this deeply unsettling time more bearable. Those needing care now, have all been caregivers in the past. Remembering our interconnectedness and our interdependence stops care becoming someone else’s responsibility and returns to its place at the heart of our lives and our homes.

We cannot yet see what the aftermath of this crisis will hold, but whatever else changes and is never the same again after Covid-19, let us hope that the undervaluing of care and carers are at the top of the list.

Groundhog Day

By Antonio Argandoña

Groundhog Day is a classic film from the 90s in which Phil (Bill Murray), an arrogant and frustrated meteorologist who works in television, is sent to a small Pennsylvanian town on February 2 for the annual Groundhog event, which involves a groundhog supposedly foreseeing the exact date of the arrival of spring. But when the reluctant newsman awakes the next morning it is February 2 again without any change in circumstances, as some may feel is happening with Covid-19 forcing us to stay locked up all day at home.

The film portrays the despair of Phil, who hopes that circumstances will bring him the happiness he desires. But the circumstances do not change and since he knows what will happen each day, he takes advantage of others; he tries to dazzle Rita, his new producer (Andy McDowell), and commits suicide multiple times, only to wake up again every morning, again on groundhog day. Finally, he changes his attitude and begins to worry about others: he saves a child who falls from a tree, he studies medicine to save the life of a homeless person … the people of the town appreciate him, he confesses his love for Rita, who accepts him … and finally he wakes up on February 3.

The film contains some messages for us, confined to our homes. Let us develop our virtues every day. Let us promote knowledge through curiosity. Do not trust in good luck, but in our effort. And, like Phil with Rita, we will discover that virtue is what makes us really kind … and we will break the groundhog day spell. We cannot control the circumstances, but we can control ourselves.

Approaches to facing the uncertainty

In this time of uncertainty, it is easy to get overwhelmed and spending so much time in the home can lead to tensions. A 22 year old has shared some of her concerns about this period of self-isolation, and we share some of the approaches to working through them. At HRF we recognise the value of the home for everyone as a place of refuge and nurture – now more than ever.

What am I worried about?

  • Everything
  • The uncertainty of not knowing how long we will be like this
  • Not having a routine
  • Forced to be at home and not being able to go out
  • Not seeing friends
  • The intense coexistence with my siblings


What can I do about it?

First of all, these feelings are very understandable as this is such an unsettling time and although this may not seem helpful, “we are all in the same boat”. There are no easy answers but here are a few thoughts:

1. Trying to get hold of “everything” is exhausting and impossible. It is best to try to focus on the things you do still have control over – how you react to “everything” that is going on.

2. Uncertainty? Well, it is true that we are going to be at home for a long time, but that’s like when you face exams. You cannot think about the last exam until you have put the others behind you. We need to face the imminent exams before worrying about the later ones… That translated to self-isolation means thinking about one day at a time For now, medium / long term planning is not helpful.

3. You have to create your own routine. If you do not already have one, now is the time you both need one and have the opportunity to find one that works for you. A suggested pattern might be: Get up early, wash, dress comfortably, and be ready for the day. A good guide is to do “head work” in the morning and “hand work” in the afternoon. So if you are studying do this before lunch and leave the afternoon for cleaning, baking, gardening and exercising. The evening can then be spent watching TV or catching up with friends and family online. Once you find a regular time-frame for your days, your mood should improve too.

4. Make the most of any outdoor/fresh air experiences you can have. Maybe you have a garden? A terrace or balcony? No matter how small it is, take advantage of it, go out there to take the air, every 2 or 3 hours. There are people going through this without access to the outdoors at all, remembering this can help us make the most of what we do have.

5. Sharing space with loved ones requires us all to be mindful of the needs of those others and how we can make it a better experience. Find moments for yourself, to read, to pray, to listen to music, without doing anything else and then return refreshed to family times. Not having the luxury of choosing how and with whom we spend our time is going to be a steep learning curve for us all.

Keeping cheerful is going to be a big help!

New ways of being in our homes

We are all having to find new patterns of being in our homes, either on our own or with our families. This family, in the United States, has shared the new shape of their days with us. At HRF we are interested in how you are finding this time in your home. Please, tell us your new days too.

A mother in the US writes:

We are doing well.  We have enough food but it runs out fast because there is 8 of us here-me and hubby, 4 kids and my parents.

Kids wake up at 9 am, we have brunch at 10, everyone does office/school work until 4 and then we eat dinner at 5,  we do virtual mass at 6, then go play together, then watch a movie at 9:00-11.

My 8 year old Therese and I manage to play piano too and the other kids play their bass, guitar instruments, read books. My 12 year old Louise can spend hours with books. Gabriel,16 and Andrew 14 get an hour each of video games with their friends. This is their virtual interaction with them.

Our favourite outdoor family game is “Hide and seek” or Patintero (a Filipino tag game).

I am trying to make them learn Chinese but they are resisting. We also get to do catechism together for 30 mins before we watch a movie.

As for my business,  the 3 ladies who work for me are now working out of their homes now. We work with “essential” infrastructure because we are in the food business so, so far we are operating normally.

I am happy that we are all together and like all of the world is very concerned about our elderly. So, the quarantine is going quite well and we are aware of the importance of a good routine.