and social policy in this country needs to
adapt to take account of the increasing importance
people place on their friendships, maintains
professor of sociology and gender studies
Sasha Roseneil, following prelimary findings
from her research into twenty-first century
has been interviewing people in Leeds, Barnsley
and Hebden Bridge who are single or choose
not to live with their partners, to look at
how different relationships are valued and
how that affects patterns of care.
people had set up home with friends, but others
saw living alone as a positive choice, whether
they were in a committed relationship or not,
said Professor Roseneil. But policy
makers tend to assume the standard conjugal
model is the norm, and fail to take into account
how people are really living their lives."
She found various instances where this had
caused problems, often in the most sensitive
and difficult situations. "Medical professionals
especially prioritise biological or marital
ties. Friends arent afforded the same
hospital visiting rights as family, or taken
seriously as carers, even if in reality blood
relationships have broken down."
She also found one committed couple who chose
to live separately, and so werent eligible
for fertility treatment.
life trajectories are no longer contained
within couples, families and communities,"
she explained. "People are creating new
networks of love, care and intimacy, including
friends and former partners, and sometimes
biological kin. Society needs to respond to
these changes, to ensure that care provision
fits the contemporary world."
The project is part of CAVA, a large ESRC
funded research programme looking at care,
values and the future of welfare. The programme
is reaching its final stage, where findings
from this and other CAVA research projects
will be used to feed back into social policy.