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Understanding everyday help and support: summary

Author(s)

ANDERSON Simon, BROWNLIE Julie, MILNE Elisabeth-Jane

Publisher(s):

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Publication year:

2015

A summary of a study examining low-level or everyday help and support and the role it can play in allowing people to lead ‘liveable’ lives. The study explored the ways in which the need for (and availability of) such support is shaped by social context, biography and relationships. It also looked at how support actually happens (or not) and how it is sustained over time. Key findings included: small acts of help, support and kindness were often mundane and barely noticed (even by those involved), but had fundamental consequences for individual and community well-being; although this everyday help was often practical, it could have important emotional consequences; individual circumstances, life stage and life events (e.g. parenting, ill health, retirement) created needs for informal help and support, but also ways of potentially meeting those needs; powerful emotions and moral considerations attached to these apparently straightforward acts, particularly notions of reciprocity and who should be considered deserving of help; many of the perceived risks of helping or being helped related to people’s concerns about their self-image or how others saw them; collectively, these acts and relationships of everyday help and support had an ‘infrastructural’ quality - they made possible other aspects of social life, but needed attention, maintenance and repair in their own right. The briefing concludes that while it is not possible to legislate for kindness, attempts should be made to avoid damaging – and, where possible, foster and extend – the conditions in which it occurs. (Edited publisher abstract)


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