Carers and Inspiration by Joseph Healey

Joseph Healy has been elected by Lambeth Green Party to stand as the Parliamentary Candidate for the Vauxhall Constituency at the next general election.

Carers and inspiration ……

Just before Xmas I attended the award ceremony for Carer of the Year run by Lambeth Council and Lambeth NHS (as the PCT is now named). I was there because in my work I had nominated someone for the award who was shortlisted and I was attending as the nominator. The Council, to its credit, laid on a nice do with the South London Jazz Orchestra in the Imperial War Museum’s cinema. I sat next to a woman who was a carer and had also been shortlisted and who cared for both her disabled daughter and husband. Most of those shortlisted were nominated by social workers but others were nominated by family members or by the voluntary sector, such as by the managers of day care centres which they attend. I had no quibble at all with the money which was spent for this event as in the total sum of things it is a very small amount indeed, and as the Chair of NHS Lambeth said, without the work of these carers the local NHS and social care would collapse.
I found many of the stories inspirational and had to admire many of these people greatly. It showed the other side of the coin in a society which is often castigated for selfishness and greed. There is, of course, much of the latter, but there are also many people such as these carers in Lambeth doing fantastic things. There were cases of daughters caring for mothers with terminal illnesses, who had virtually put their whole life on hold to do so. There were husbands caring 24/7 for their ill or housebound wives and there were several examples of people who were just good neighbours looking after the person in the flat nearby and ensuring that they were ok. The person who won the ‘Carer of the Year’ award was a man with his own family who had actually moved into the house of his friend, who had suffered a serious illness, to offer him full round the clock emotional and psychological support. What also struck me was that many of these people came from poor, inner city parts of Lambeth, like much of Vauxhall, yet they have given up so much for the good of others. We all know the stats about how much the state saves because of the work of carers and the huge gap that they fill. The other noticeable fact was that most of them were women and indeed it is women who carry the main burden of caring.

In a decade and a year that has seen so much to be disconsolate about, it is people like these who offer hope for a real ‘civil society’ and a model of co-operation which goes against the grain of everything which the bankers and the ‘wide boys’ of the City represent. They also stand in stark contrast to most of our politicians who are not prepared to forego anything and who have in this country and elsewhere brought the political class into real and deserved disrepute. But the real communities which these people represent will be gravely threatened in the year ahead by those for whom their service represents nothing. Those whom Oscar Wilde once described as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.” It is the real tragedy of the last three decades that these bean counters and their allies in politics have been allowed to dominate everything. Even our NHS bodies and various quangos are infested with the captains of industry and their parasitical managerialist cronies.

The real fight ahead is a struggle between two visions – that of a society based on sharing and social need, such as that represented by the carers in Lambeth and that of a society based on greed and the lowest common denominator, where we still hear the siren cry that “there is no alternative.” There is an alternative and I saw it at that event two weeks ago and it is worth fighting for. So despite the gloom and doom – and we will hear much of it in the months ahead – the actions of dedicated people do provide inspiration and hope that all is not yet lost.

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