Care can sometimes be reduced to tasks, focusing on the physical needs of eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Sometimes keeping people safe from harm overrides all other considerations. This sets the bar too low.
Christ came in order that we might have life in all its fullness or abundant life (John 10:10). There are lots of words used in the secular world to describe the positive outcomes that care and support should focus on: quality of life, wellbeing, happiness. Policy documents talk about enabling people to live a meaningful life, normal life, or ordinary life.
Care and support need to focus on the whole person and enable us to flourish – to live life to the full and with hope. This means participating in education, work, family life, play, community and worship.
Love is at the heart of care. It is why we care. To care for and to care about others is to live out Jesus’ commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This love is described in 1 Corinthians 13 and expresses itself in gentleness and kindness, reflecting the nature of God. How we care needs to reflect this love.
Compassion is expressed in helping others in greater need than us. Care flows out of compassion but it can be paternalistic. Doing to others what we think they need, rather than starting with the person, and asking what matters to them.
In the true meaning of ‘compassion’, we get alongside others in their situation, stand or sit shoulder to shoulder, and act as allies. Doing with not for others. This requires care to be based on empathy not sympathy.
Trust and Mutuality
Care and support funded by local authorities are heavily rationed and there is often a fear and reluctance to allow people to direct their own care. People who draw on care and their carers know what matters to them and therefore know best what they need.
It is important that trust is at the heart of the caring relationship. This means empowering people to make their own decisions and deciding what risks they want to take.
Promoting independence is often held up as a positive goal of care and support. And yet we are social beings. Care needs to reflect the importance of relationships and community. The early church provides a model of living in community, of mutuality, and interdependence, where everyone has a part to play (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Universal and Inclusive
Disability remains stigmatised in our society. Intergenerational divisions between young and old frequently play out in the media and policy debates. Care is seen as a burden.
In Christ there are no divisions: “neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female” to this we could add “neither able-bodied or disabled, neither neurodiverse nor neurotypical, nor is there old and young” (Galatians 3:28 or Colossians 3:11).
Care is a universal experience. We are all cared for and care for others at some point in our lives. This means challenging ableism and ageism where we see and hear it.
Fairness and Justice
Many people with disability and older people face discrimination, both generally and in their experiences of care. They have to ‘fight’ to get support.
We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), each of us unique but equal in worth before God. This amazing grace and acceptance of who we are, needs to be reflected in how we see and care for one another.
It means ensuring fair and equitable access and promoting the rights of all to care and support.
The experiences of people living with disability at all ages are often invisible and ignored. The lack of care and support for those who need it is an injustice. Our collective failure to act to provide care and support is a sin.
The mission of the church is to carry on the work of Christ Jesus to ‘release the oppressed’ (Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18). He identified with the marginalised in society, challenged the authorities, and turned the rules and norms of the day on their head.
This means engaging with and advocating for those whose voice is seldom heard and taking action to create a system of care that is based on justice and righteousness.