February 18, 2015
Bartering; care over cash
Think independent midwives are out of your reach? Think again! Some are open to creative offers and the age-old custom of bartering. Virginia Howes is one of them…
The saddest thing for me as an independent midwife is the fact that some women, no matter how hard they budget or save, cannot afford to pay for my services.
Most recently I was called back to a previous client, now pregnant again, who wanted the safest and most rewarding type of maternity care. Valerie wanted one-to one care with me, the midwife who she had built up a relationship with in her previous pregnancy. However circumstances had changed for her and her partner. Times were hard and his painting and decorating business was not doing as well as it could. Wait! Painting and decorating services? I had just moved into a new house that was in desperate need of decorating. Unfortunately, it was also in desperate need of new outside lights, new plumbing and countless other things that were ahead in priority to the decorating (according to him indoors). However, and here my mind was working overtime at a rate of knots, how about if I gave my services as a midwife and in return her partner offered his own skills? A visit to my house a few days later and an estimate of how much his quote was showed it to be the perfect two-way deal and hands were shook.
How about if I gave my services as a midwife and in return her partner offered his own skills?
Bartering is not a new concept. In fact it originates from early Mesopotamian and Babylonian tribes. Oceans were sailed to exchange much needed items for food, spices, furs, perfumes and even weapons. Roman soldiers were paid in valuable salt for their services of war. Watch old westerns and you will see American Indians trading with early white settlers. Bartering has been used in times of depression and poverty, even since the introduction of a monetary system, such as in the great American depression of the 1930’s and prior to the NHS when the local midwife may have been paid in the currency of the local butcher or baker or candlestick maker.
My own earliest experience of bartering was sitting on the school playground floor with a precious cargo. An old tobacco tin full of ‘jewels’; diamonds, rubies and emeralds which all had a swapping price to them. My friends and I eagerly succumbed to the latest craze of glass bauble collecting. One diamond could fetch as much as four other brightly coloured stones and best friends could be bought and sold easily with the sparkling beauties.
Wind forward 45 years and here was I now once again thinking that swapping would be a fantastic way of enabling women to have my care, women who maybe would not have been able to even think about it before. My first port of call was Facebook, to test the waters and see if it was something women would be interested in.
There are websites dedicated to battering advice and putting parties in touch with each other. Leonie Taylor writing about bartering in the Guardian quoted her yoga teacher Jim Tarran, during their own bartering exchange payment, who very succinctly summed it up, “Skill-swaps demonstrate people’s appreciation of the value of another person’s unique knowledge where circumstance may restrict a strictly fiscal exchange”.
As far as my own profession is concerned, whole communities in the birth world are using this unique payment exchange system. IMUK colleagues have told of a whole host of services and items agreed in lieu of cash payment for their care; a piano, fire logs, chicken enclosures, homemade soups for a year and web site design to name but a few. So Kent Midwifery Practice is merely just jumping on the tried and tested bartering band wagon.
Here was I now once again thinking that swapping would be a fantastic way of enabling women to have my care
So, not long after placing my idea of receiving payment in kind onto my social media pages I received two offers. One offer was from a hairdresser and the other from a woman who is cabin crew for a well-known airline. I do not spend loads of money on frivolous items. I am not a drinker or a smoker and socialise rarely but two treats in life I really love are having my hair done and going on hols. As grey roots have increased in line with my advancing years I find the need for hairdresser visit gets ever more frequent and those trips are not cheap. It does not take long for me to work out that this would entail around three years’ worth of hair appointments to pay my fee.
Trust forms a large part of the care between a women and her midwife and the trust goes both ways but bartering would bring in a whole different emphasis on the concept. Fees when paid in the customarily way are usually encouraged to be paid by the time baby is born but I could never have three years of hair dos in 9 months. Would the excited and committed mother- to- be and hairdresser of today be so happy to do my hair in 3 years’ time? There is of course no consumer protection or warranties. Maybe a contract could be put in place that would mean a monetary value could be put in place should the hairdresser default on the deal? Or would that put doubt into the whole trust issue that is all so important in the midwife mother relationship.
A friendly reminder from the tax man
Furthermore as romantic and back to rustic basics as it sounds bartering is not without legal implications in relation to tax and unless declared has potential for income tax, corporation tax or VAT evasion penalties.
There are lots of issues to be addressed if this is to be an on-going arrangement and legitimate way of doing business but one thing I know for sure I am excited that independent midwifery could be bought to many more women in this way and I am personally open to offers, although hold the chicken enclosures please!
Think independent midwives are out of your reach? Think again! Some are open to creative offers and the age-old custom of bartering. Virginia Howes is one of them… The saddest thing for me as an independent midwife is the fact that some women, no matter how hard they budget or save, cannot afford to […]