By Sandra Webster, National Co-Spokesperson for Scottish Socialist Party
This week the world has circled round the sun for another 52 weeks and it is again time for Carer’s week. It is a time when what carers do is celebrated. It usually has a theme and this year it is Carer friendly communities. If all communities were so it would be a good thing as they would be a better place for all of us. With the cuts looming along with another five years of tory cuts, I think we will find that the things that we value in society, the very core of our communities which is people helping their neighbours is going to be impacted on.
It was Thatcher who announced the death of society in the eighties. It was a return to the philosophy of Locke and Hobbes where the premise was there was suspicion among neighbours. Thatcher’s message had a deeper meaning though the end of public services which we hold so dear and depend on. Thatcher’s children have kept the dream alive with Cameron’s message of “The Big Society” which seems to have been quietly forgotten. Now the narrative is about workfare and folk working for benefit.
Being a carer has changed my life. I hope I am a more considerate person. I have learned so much for other carers. We and those we care for are not “benefit units” but an active part of our community. Thatcher’s prediction was wrong. Society is alive and kicking from parents setting up support groups, to internet support and people reaching out to others when folk experience their darkest hours.
Being a carer like many others has also affected my health. This week some of us are using the hash tag #RealCarersWeek and sharing glimpses of our lives. One thread was about the impact on ourselves and how we have to cancel medical appointments even surgery. Our lives are fragile and we need flexibility from the NHS that would help a lot in creating carer friendly communities. Many carers myself included live with disability and long term health conditions. We manage most of the time but it seems likely more and more of us will reach breaking point.
Many services such as day centres have been closed. The Scottish Government is bringing in Self Directed Support. This is an amazing thing for some carers I know but for others it places an added burden of employing and managing staff. The Care Tax which is taken off before you receive self direct support means many are living in poverty. DLA should be about help with the extra cost of disability not seen as excessive income. We also fear what is coming our way in the “emergency” budget with leaks about taxing DLA for those earning more than £11,000 a year and DLA only being proffered to one person in a family. We fear the Work Capability Assessments where folk are found fit for work despite still requiring the same amount of care. We fear for the most vulnerable in our society.
We stand with people with disabilities in the call to end austerity but we will always be there to offer the highest quality care without charge because we care for those we support. The last day of Carer’s week on Sunday will be a rally against austerity called by Black Triangle and I know many of us will be there. Some of us of course won’t be able to due to our caring responsibilities but will be there in spirit. What carers do should be acknowledged all year round but to all my fellow carers and friends. I celebrate you and send you strength. Thanks for being an inspiration to me as you are to others.