Juliet Cumberbatch Shines a Light on Family Care-giving in Barbados
BARP Charitable Trust UWI Scholarship Winner
By Sharon Marshall
In 2013, Juliet Cumberbatch graduated from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) with a Bachelor of Social Work – Second Class Honours (Upper Division).
That year, she was able to participate in a research practicum at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, and serve as a social work intern as part of the Winter Programme of the Faculty of Social Work. She was able to observe and document multiagency collaboration. She was exposed to and documented community development practice, and honed her research skills.
Juliet’s stated social work objective is, “To contribute to the social work practice and research of enhancing person(s) in environment and to develop competencies in the specialized social work area of older adults with a view to impact policies and intergenerational programming through research, writings and advocacy.”
In 2016, she won the BARP Charitable Trust Scholarship. The scholarship is valued at BDS $10,000, and is awarded annually to nationals of Barbados pursuing full-time, post-graduate programmes at the UWI relating to ageing. The award is intended to assist in covering the cost of books, materials and tuition. It enabled Juliet to meet her objective “to contribute to social work practice and research”.
Juliet graduated from UWI Cave Hill in 2019 with an MPhil in Social Work. Her concentration: Ageing/Elderly/Family/Informal Care-giving.
She shared her research findings with members of the Board of Trustees of the BARP Charitable Trust during a presentation in November 2020. Her presentation was entitled, “Family Care-giving in Barbados: Impacts and Experiences of Caregivers in the Parishes of St. Lucy and St. James”. There were 34 family and informal caregivers involved in the research project, and there were 38 male and female care recipients.
By way of background, Juliet explained that Barbados leads the list of English-speaking Caribbean countries with the highest percentage of persons over 60 years old.
Juliet stated that, “Traditionally, in Barbados, families provided care for their elderly relatives at home. Longevity and varying degrees of dependency of these older adults have placed added burden on these families.”
According to her research, care-giving is taking place within an environment where primary y care-givers also aging, family structures appear more diverse and smaller, and one in which formal systems are perceived as slow and reactionary and state policies are inadequate.
She found that in St. Lucy, most care recipients had some degree of mobility but a high level of mental decline, while in St. James many lacked physical functioning, but had good mental capacities. All of them needed help with personal daily living, and displayed varying personality changes. Most were spiritually/religiously oriented.
Her findings indicate that women bear the brunt of care-giving. Most care-givers and recipients are women. Juliet found that some women leave their jobs early or reduce job hours in order to care for elderly relatives. This results in less fewer job opportunities for them, an ultimately affects their pensions. Some of them remain unemployed, and this creates a path of situational poverty as they age, and perhaps become dependent themselves.
She is recommending a neo-liberal policy that adopts care-giving as work, which would allow care givers to access the benefits of workers under the various work related legislation. Even though many family care-givers have their own personal motivations for providing care, some are not employed in the formal workforce and do not have access to employment benefits. Care as work can also open the door for others to get involved in care-giving.
Juliet is advocating for State policy which also treats care in a manner consistent with other occupations. Policies that would benefit care-givers should cover respite care, short-term facilities, reduced medical expenses, education, and housing/tax subsidies. She suggests financial benefits/grants/stipends for care-givers, as well as private sector corporate contributions and labour re-entry opportunities and training. These policies would also include elder advocacy and protection.
Juliet noted that the findings of her research cannot be generalised to the whole related population in Barbados, but she hopes to be able to expand her research from just two rural parishes to encompass the whole of Barbados.