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Great – It’s National Carers Week

June 18, 2012

That rather muted fanfare you heard this morning, may have been heralding the start of this year’s National Carer’s Week. The annual event where the lives and needs of carers are in the spotlight (that may mean a three minute slot on Daybreak, squeezed between the weather report and Ross King’s latest news from a Hollywood red carpet). The big charities will talk about the lack of funding, the impact of caring on the carer’s health. Carers will be praised for their stoicism and the word of the week will probably be “unsung”.

What’s it like to be one of the unsung? In 2008, I was given a holiday by the Princess Royal’s Trust for Carers. I was very grateful and it was a brilliant week, even if the venue (Pontins in Blackpool) had been stuck in 1973, since 1973. What struck me as much as the stoicism and sheer dogedness of all the holidaymakers, was what a bedragled lot we were. It put me in mind of that last scene of The Posseidon Adventure, when the survivors emerge from the ship. If you want a good working defintion of the phrase “at the end of one’s tether”, go to a carer’s holiday. It’s hard to buy the latest designer labels in swimwear out of your Carers Allowance. But there was a fantastic atmosphere, in a Cameronish, we’re all in this together, sort of way.

I feel rather pessimistic about this year’s Carer’s week. Over the last year, I’ve noticed a change in attitude towards the disabled and the people who care for them. On a good day, you might get apathy but on a bad day, thanks in no small measure to those great champions of the disabled like Maria Miller and Ian Duncan Smith, you get downright hostility. And when the mood swings from apathy to hostility, it’s hardly the greatest background to bring about some kind of change.

Earlier this year, the Carers Solidarity group that I’m a member of, produced a report about the shocking use (or mis-use?) of the carers grant and how carers assessments are conducted across the country. Statiticians could pour over the report for hours but the bottom line was simple; the will isn’t there and the money that is available, is not being made available to carers. I was naive. I thought that after the media coverage I got for the Neary vs Hillingdon case last year, this report might get a bit of coverage. Sadly it didn’t, although a lady in Newport Pagnell tutted! Apathy. Or perhaps we chose a week to release the report at a time when Katie Price was having some relationship difficulties. I’ve blogged about it before but here are two statistics: 64% of the money LAs receive from Central Government for a Carers Grant do not get through to carers  (and we’re talking millions here). 72% of carers assessments carried out don’t actually lead to anything whatsoever for the carer. Can anyone think of a more pointless (and expensive) activity than that?

The bee in my bonnet is respite. After months and months of haggling, I’ve finally got it agreed that I can receive 42 nights of respite a year. As my son is still traumatised by his previous experience of respite, where he was carted off after one day to a postive behaviour unit, and didn’t return home for a year, we have our respite at home. A carer arrives at 6pm; I go out and meet friends or sit in a pub on my own and write blogs, come home about 10 and the carer takes charge if any caring is needed during the night. It works and it is cheap at £65 per night. Couldn’t the provision of respite be mandatory – the actual content of it, dependent on the circumstances. The respite arrangement has been a lifesaver to me, much more than a nice spa or an Indian head massage  once a year might have been. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if this kind of arrangement was there for everybody who needed it. The money is there; the will isn’t.

I know I’m being fanciful but I’d love National Carers week to produce something as concrete and useful as a statutory respite provision. The chances of that happening are less than zero but as a valuable alternative, we may all be offered, a person centred chiropody session.

The fanfare can stop now. Carers Week will be all over in six days.


From → Social Care

One Comment
  1. Kevin Kelly permalink

    I was told that the Carers’ Conference (or whatever you want to call it – does it matter?) was being held in the Uxbridge Civic Centre in June this year. I phoned up to get a place, but I was told that as I wasn’t REGISTERED with Hillingdon Carers, it was not possible for me to attend – “no room, no room” (from Alice in Wonderland or something). I asked the head-person if it did not seem strange to them that a person caring for THREE other people, at that time, was unable to get a place at the Carers’ Conference – to which there was no reply. So I said, “Maybe I had been too busy with my caring duties to REGISTER with you; maybe I should just get on with my caring, in my own way, dealing with problems in my own way, as I always have done; maybe it would just be a “talking-shop” anyway; and maybe I haven’t missed anything over these many years by not being REGISTERED with them.” I tend to think that all of this applies.

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