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