Stories of Care wins Society of Legal Scholars prize

20 September 2018

Dr Lydia Hayes with former High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs at the Inner Temple, London.
Dr Lydia Hayes with former High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs at the Inner Temple, London.

A book which explores the day-to-day sexism and class-bias encountered by homecare workers has won the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) Peter Birks second prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship.

Dr Lydia Hayes is the first Cardiff academic to win an SLS prize which she was awarded for her book, Stories of Care: A Labour of Law (Palgrave, 2017). The prize was presented by former High Court judge Dame Linda Dobbs on 5 September 2018 at the SLS annual dinner at the Inner Temple, London.

Dr Hayes book is unique due to the ground-breaking way that it combines ethnographic data with doctrinal analysis as well as being the first to win book prizes from both of the UK’s learned academic societies in law - the Socio-Legal Studies Association and the SLS.

Framing the UK’s twenty-first century crisis of social care in the context of a longstanding, gendered crisis in the regulation of work, Dr Hayes argues that there are few better examples of the extent to which the UK state disrespects working-class women than the fact that homecare jobs offer among the worst of wages and working conditions.

The central message of the book is an appeal for labour standards to be more widely understood as fundamental to the future of social care. The work sheds light on what Dr Hayes refers to as the 'institutionalised humiliation' of the homecare workforce to show how the intellectual reasoning and values expressed in employment law serve to justify poor treatment, low pay and insecurity.

Speaking of the book and her prize, Dr Hayes said, “I am thrilled that Stories of Care has won the SLS award. It is a book that I really loved writing. In legal scholarship we don’t often talk about the artistic aspects of academic writing but this was a very creative process.  I was weaving together narratives from care workers, insights from social theory and analysis of legal rules and rulings, it was hard to get the combination right but I am so glad I persevered.”

“Care workers participated in my research because they wanted better quality jobs and the best care for older and disabled people. Winning awards for the book helps to raise awareness that the UK’s so called ‘care crisis’ is a product of an employment rights framework which fails to provide working class women with the equality, security, and dignity they need. I hope people with the power to make change will take up the challenge of creating sustainable jobs in the care sector.”

Each year the Society offers two prizes for outstanding published books by scholars in their early careers. The winner of the first prize was Law and Revolution: Legitimacy and Constitutionalism After the Arab Spring by Nimer Sultany.