The boundaries of care work: A comparative study of professionals and volunteers in Denmark and Australia

Charlotte Overgaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the manner in which two hospices - one located in Denmark and one in Australia - negotiate and determine the boundaries of volunteer workers vis-à-vis paid staff. A comparative case study approach was used to juxtapose organisations with similar activity fields located in different welfare state systems, i.e. a social democratic welfare state and a liberal welfare state. This study involved non-participant observation of volunteers at work and unstructured interviews with volunteers, staff and management in the hospices (n = 41). Data were collected between August 2012 and February 2013. Data were managed using NVivo and analysed thematically. A key finding is that volunteers in the Danish hospice were excluded from all direct care work due to the effective monopoly of the professional care providers, whereas the Australian volunteers participated in the provision of care to the extent that risk could be eliminated or mitigated to an acceptable level. The findings suggest two different models of the roles of volunteers in tension with professional care providers. Both models recognise that volunteers add to the level of care delivered by the organisations and allow for a discussion that moves away from the normative discussions of 'not taking somebody's job', while also recognising that volunteers must be more than just the 'nice extra' if they are to be of any real value to the organisation and to care receivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-388
Number of pages9
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


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