Simulating the interaction of informal child care and social care

One of the most important tasks of modern society is the provision of personal and medical care for people in need of assistance due to age, disability or other factors. In developed countries, the state plays an important role in the provision of care. However, formal and informal care provided within the household or broader kinship network is critical to the health outcomes of these vulnerable groups.

The problem of meeting social care needs for many households is compounded by the need to meet their family's child care needs. As human lifespans lengthen and birth-rates drop in developed countries, demand for social care will increase, meaning that an increasing number of households will need to manage their time and financial resources to provide for both child care and social care needs.

These care-giving households and their connected networks of relatives providing support are affected both directly and indirectly by the government's child and social care policies. Therefore, understanding how child and social care need evolves over time, and the socioeconomic processes that underlie the provision of care, is vital to any attempt to develop and implement effective and sustainable care policies.

In this research, we use agent-based models (ABMs) to explore the complex relationships between social and child care provision, and the impact of social policies on these processes. These models will enable us to improve our understanding of how demographic, social and economic factors interact to determine the dynamics of care demand and supply.  Using ABMs we can model varied scenarios of economic and social policy change, providing a means to test social policies relating to child and social care. The models’ ability to simulate detailed individual agents will also help to reveal any unintended consequences, or spill-over effects, of proposed policies on particular groups. Crucially, our models can reveal these potential problems prior to implementation in the ‘real world’.

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