Through being an unpaid carer I have met some of the most amazing beautiful, people in the world. That has been a joy when I see how they support their loved one including those with complex disabilities. One of the worst part of being a carer is seeing parents having to say goodbye all of whom have received the best care in the world. It does make me angry when I see how little support they receive even though they ask for so little. They rely on friends, family members, carers centre’s for a little extra support to cope with supporting someone they love who needs 24/7 care.
I don’t normally watch “Benefit Street” the latest in channel 4’s social anthropological journey into the lives of some of the most vulnerable. To be honest Richard Attenbourgh’s wildlife programmes seem to bring out more compassion in us. In last night’s programme I dare anyone not to be moved by the story of Julie and her son Reagan. Julie has looked after Reagan since he was nine months old and his needs were complex. Last night showed his last Christmas where the poorest of folk raised money for Reagan to have a reindeer sledge ride. His smiles were infectious. Sadly Reagan died a few weeks later after a hospital admission. Julie and the family and neighbours were devastated.
I couldn’t help but think of the families who are going through such grief at this time. I know many families still living with the dreadful pain of losing someone they love and their live being turned upside down. This is not only emotional but a complete change of circumstances. Benefits are cut, this might mean the loss of a car and even your home could be at risk. This seems to happen overnight. It is part of the system. Although many folk have given up their lifetime to care for a loved one the question that was asked on “Benefit Streets” last night has resonance. “Does looking after your child count as nothing?”
On Benefit Street despite the stereotype they practice what they preach to paraphrase Nick Cave. I have the feeling that the community will rally round Reagan’s mum Julie. I know that all the folk I know are appreciated by their communities for what they do and I am writing this in honour of all the folk I know who have lost a child. Every carer’s journey is different but our path’s frequently diverge. I just want to send love to all those I know who have lost a loved one in the past few years. I am not going to name you but hope you know I am thinking of you all.
The needs of past carers have to be recognised. Their grief should be our grief. When I hear of people being threatened with the bedroom tax or eviction it makes my blood boil. They should be appreciated for all the support and most of all love they gave their loved ones. Cutting benefits immediately just sends so many into poverty. We need a gentler way. A pension for carers. Most of all we need to show love and solidarity in the personal and political. To all my friends in this position much love and I am here for you any way I can be even if it is just to remember. xxx
Like most of my comrades, I felt rejuvenated at being at the SSP conference. The motions were inspiring and well thought out. The good thing about our party is that debate is encouraged and National Councils and Conferences are a highlight for ordinary members who work so hard in their branches and truly share common values with me. I would like to remind ordinary members that they are also welcome as observers at our monthly ECs where those elected at conference have to make decisions with the consent and trust of the wider party. I am proud that we are open and inclusive and all of our structures are transparent.
At conference we voted to enter negotiations with the Scottish Left project, We heard passionate discussion on both sides where people laid themselves bare but were prepared to do that for the debate and to inform others. We heard from Myrto from Syrizia and Jonathon from the Scottish Left project. The words of Myrto echo in my ears, “Another Scotland is necessary”. With the tory attacks coming our way it is. Let’s remember that austerity doesn’t only demonise poor people but those who work in the public sector. I am grateful it still exists but cuts are impacting on the most vulnerable and cuts are impacting on worker’s jobs. What will happen if the libraries and museums in Renfrewshire are coagulated into a private trust. What will happen to the users of services and the terms and conditions of those who work for us. From public health consultants to librarians with their skills to those working to maintain council houses whose hours are being cut.
Great challenges ahead for those who have the support of the traditional weapon of Trade Unionism but what about those who do not have a voice or someone shouting out to represent them. I am talking about those without work, carers, people with disabilities who will experience the most devastating cuts in Osbourne’s July budget because they are deemed to be “benefit units” not real people just described in Dickensian linguistics. Ironic as Dickens used his language to share the experience and grind of day to day poverty which creates a holistic poverty and stigmatization. I wonder what Goffman would have written about in 2015? Though his analysis remains sound, people are stigmatised and alienated.
How will this affect the left who offer an alternative? Well we need to start talking to real people outside the box. To be a real anti-austerity movement which offers hope in Greece we have to make politics real. That is why I am not calling for a Scottish Syrizia but a movement all of our own based in the experiences of Scotland as Syrizia is based in the experience of the Greek people. To ensure this happens we need to talk to real people about their lives and what they want to change. We can be part of the anti-austerity movement of Europe we need to be and let’s make this happen most of all we need to engage in our communities, engage in real lives. That is the lesson to Syrizia for us all.
So after conference I spoke to some party members who are working class and experience the cuts. One of them spoke about the folk given chits to buy second hand sofas from the welfare fund which replaced community care grants which gave folk choice in choosing the things that are essential. Not long til tackety boots are purchased by the parish. These meant when you knelt down for communion everyone could see these were bought by the parish. Do we want to go back to these days? of course not but I fear we are sleepwalking in that direction. Let’s challenge the impact of austerity now by helping folk that is why we are part of the left.