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Our projects

Reimagining Homecare

The Reimagining Homecare project is part of a larger Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Care Aesthetics Research Exploration (CARE) project that is currently underway in the UK. The CARE project is a cross disciplinary and cross institutional project and includes paid homecare workers, carers working in NHS dementia wards, an NHS Trust senior manager, practicing performance artists and academics from dementia nursing, theatre studies and workplace learning. The Reimagining Homecare project makes up one of four case studies examining ‘care aesthetics’ and is exploring sensory ways of knowing homecare.

The overarching framing of the project is feminist praxis and collective ways of knowing homecare that centre the often marginalised knowledges of homecare workers. The feminist political ambition of the project is to produce knowledges about homecare by homecare workers (mostly women in the UK) as they struggle for visibility and recognition in a largely hierarchical healthcare system that, for the most part, ignores their knowledges, or at least when it comes to making policy

Documenting paid homecare work

The everyday practices of paid homecare workers is an underexplored area in the social sciences (Ceci, Björnsdóttir, & Purkis, 2013) and little is known about the sensory and embodied ways of knowing associated with their everyday practices at work.

For the most part, this work and the knowledges homecare workers produce in and through their work, remain invisible. The Documenting Paid Homecare Work project contributes to countering that invisibility by recording the experiences of paid homecare workers in the UK as they work with care recipients in their homes.

This project page provides a public space for paid homecare workers to publish their experiences of providing homecare in the UK and will include blogs, podcasts, journal entries and photographs. The aim is to produce a 'Compendium of Neglected Things' that directs attention to the sensory and embodied dimensions of care. 

Compendium of neglected things


The project explored the everyday learning of paid homecare work in London, in a way that moves beyond the prevailing discourse of skill deficit in the sector. The focus was on the everyday practices of paid homecare workers as they work with homecare recipients. The purpose was to draw attention to the knowledges they have developed in and through their work practices and their everyday learning at work. 


  • The Care Act was introduced by the government in England in 2014, as a response to the ‘crisis in care’. The changes introduced in the legislation aimed to put people in control of their own care and to improve the ‘wellbeing’ of both those receiving and those providing care. 
  • However, a number of recent reports on paid homecare in the UK suggest that problems identified by the Care Quality Commission in 2012, such as the inadequate length of visits and the need for staff training, have become more acute rather than subsiding (Gardiner, 2015; Holmes, 2016; UNISON, 2016).  
  • While there would be few that argue with the view that the sector is in crisis, particularly now that the flow of labour from EU countries is likely to contract following Brexit, a discourse of skills deficit prevails in much of this literature, reinforcing the assumption that homecare workers are ‘low skilled’. 
  • This is particularly significant for the proposed research application which aims to draw attention to embodied skills and knowledges of this group of workers, which in turn will impact on how homecare services may be improved.


  • The underlying principles guiding the research approach were an ‘equality of intelligence’ and more democratic approaches to producing knowledge in the social sciences. 
  • To that end, it was key that homecare workers were involved at the initial stages of the development of the project in order to identify and discuss areas of relevance to be researched/interests, as well as throughout the duration of the funded project. 


  • Aim: Developing a network and steering group for the funding application.
  • Stage one
    • Key stakeholders of homecare services were identified. This included: care recipients; carers; service providers; local NHS services; UNISON etc. Specific stakeholders included: authors of the ‘Suffering at Home Alone’ report, prepared by UNISON; union officials working with paid homecare workers; past students on the nursing pathway in HEIS; Citizens UK, east London chapter (TELCO); Hackney CCG; Jonathon Holmes, who has conducted research on homecare workers for UKHCA; and Professor Sondra Cuban, Department of Health and Community Studies, Western Washington University, USA, who had conducted ESRC funded research with homecare workers in the north west of England.
    • Initial meetings with stakeholders were organised in order establish their interest and support for the project.
    • A list of homecare workers was compiled as well as suggestions for the best way of making contact in order to secure a collaborative relationship.
  • Stage two
    • Part one: Initial meetings with homecare workers were organised (August-September 2018). The aim was to i) identify key areas of their work relevant for research; and ii) establish best ways to empower and sustain a working collaboration on their everyday learning at work. 
    • Part two: Another round of meetings was organised (February-March 2019) to feedback key concerns (in terms of their everyday work practices) they identified at our meetings and ascertain interest in working on an ongoing project. 
  • Stage three
    • A one-day homecare community engagement workshop was held to bring together interested ageing and care researchers, care workers, practitioners, and policy-makers, across the UK to explore the themes identified in the stage two meetings. A short film titled ‘Homecare Worker Stories’ was produced by a local filmmaker at Wood Green using audio recordings from the meetings with the homecare workers. This film was shown at the community engagement event.  
  • Stage four
    •  The preparation of funding application using the information developed in stage three.

Project outcomes

  • The development of a theoretical frame of sensory ways of knowing for guiding ongoing exploration of sensory learning in homecare work. The focus is on knowing that involves touch, sight, smell, sound and taste. 
  • Ongoing collaboration with Professor Sondra Cuban Department of Health and Community Studies, Western Washington University, USA. Professor Cuban visited Birkbeck in 2019 as a BIH Visiting Scholar. 
  • Ongoing collaboration with homecare workers interested in getting ‘a seat at the table’ in the development of knowledges on ‘good care’ and policy development in the homecare sector. Read the 'Caring about Homecare' blog.