All the excitement surrounding the Euro elections meant that I didn't read Rowan Williams' article in yesterday's Telegraph until tonight. He was writing about 'our neglected carers'. He is so so right when he writes "Part of what makes us human is our willingness to look out for, and look after each other". I sense that our 'willingness' is considerably less than it used to be, at least in part because the state has set out to claim the role of provider of care, a policy driven by compassion, but dangerous in its potential to 'nationalise' what historically was seen as a family responsibility. In reality, the sheer scale of demand is such that the state cannot possibly afford to carry out this task alone. Since I became involved with a company providing care, across all ages, I've become much more aware of what happens in our society. Many do not receive the care they need. And I foresee a significant reduction in what the state will be able to do over the next few years. I foresee more and more people being left without care. As always, when the Governments of the world make a complete b*** up of our economy, its the most vulnerable who will lose out. This is the area of public policy where I expect to see most empty rhetoric and unfunded promises.
I know a lady who has an adult epileptic son, who requires full time attention. We sometimes talk about the need for respite care, Whenever I meet her, I leave in awe of her commitment. And I cannot imagine the pain and dedication needed by parents who have children with severe 'learning difficulties' - or people who try to care for elderly people suffering from advanced dementia. And there are so many other examples. A century ago, when extended families lived together it was a burden that was frequently shared, but today it so often falls on one individual, whose life is completely taken over by the responsibility.
In his article, the Archbishop of Canterbury is using Carer's Week to ask that the state makes a bigger commitment to helping carers. I agree with him, but know that its not going to happen. Because the Government of our country has run out of money, and taken on incredible debts, our public services are in effect facing managed decline. I hope those who set the budgets that support carers will not be tempted to cut services for carers, people who do not have a strong collective voice. I suppose it helps to have Rowan Williams onside.