Monday, 24 November 2008

The Carers' Trade Union

The Carers Trade Union has now been established. If you support the union and are a carer yourself, then please consider joining. Please indicate your support by making a comment on this blog.

Discussion on the union is available on the Carer Watch site.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Elderly carers arise, you have nothing to lose but your chains

Old couples, who may have been together for many years, frequently want to remain together. Not surprising, but from this enduring attachment arises a despicable form of exploitation. The services required to keep an elderly couple in their own home are seldom remotely adequate. Specialist nursing services, for example, for Parkinson's patients, are almost as rare as hen's teeth. It is often the case that one partner is designated as the carer for the other. Perhaps it is a matter of who becomes seriously ill first. They can be placed in an impossible situation, caring for their partner when they themselves are old and sick. Who cares ?

Not, apparently the medical profession, who know about enormous numbers of these cases, but seemingly prefer to hide behind the remit of social service departments, who ostensibly are responsible for providing domestic support for carers. This is a medical matter as well as a social one. Social services don't have anything like the resources necessary to provide the needed services.

Make sure, when you are discharged from hospital, that there is a fit young person waiting at home to care for you.

It is a national disgrace. Couples expressing a human desire to remain together may be punished severely for their fidelity. Carer Watch, who campaigns for the rights of carers, is currently campaigning for elderly carers to be treated as human beings.

Too expensive ? Like constant wars, Trident, multi-million pound aircraft carriers, big bank bailouts, billionaire tax evasion, etc.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Carers up the creek

The concerns of carers are small beer compared to the present economic crisis. If they get the capitalist system to work again, there will still be the little matter a a major recession, possibly turning into a full depression, to deal with. The cost of bailing out the banks will be borne by the working class and those too sick and disabled to work, not by big business and its political allies in New Labour and the Tories. The Left have failed to make the obvious connection between Reagan-Thatcher-Blair-Brown and Casino Capitalism, sufficiently clear.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, carers continue to struggle to cope with a demanding job for which they are not paid. Where is the campaign for a carers trade union ? Well, we are still struggling on at Carer Watch. Join us.

The government Green Paper on caring may become a White Paper one day and we need to do our best to influence it while we may. The Carer Watch group will shortly be producing their response to it and I can hardly contain my excitement ! For me, the salient issue is the proposal to move carers from the pathetic Carers' Allowance to the obnoxious Job Seekers' Allowance. This would apply to all carers, regardless of the hours they work, apart from the likes of me who are too ancient. What an absurdity and what an insult. So caring 24/7 is not a job already ? Those carers who are exhausted and made ill by all the hard work, the stress and depression, don't already have a job ?

All of this in a situation of rising unemployment where jobs are increasing hard to come by even for those who don't actually have one and are desperately seeking employment. It's all about social control. We may not have a job for you. You are obviously overwhelmed with work already, even to the point of desperation and despair, but the principle of you being not only being available for work but actively seeking it must be upheld. If you don't get paid a wage then you are not working already. If you are not employed then you don't get paid a wage. Carers can't win under the present set up.

It is important, I think, to campaign for carers to become public employees, because caring is a social responsibility. Using the individual budgets of carees to employ carers, potentially creates lots of problems. We clearly need a trade union to campaign for carers employment and other rights, so why haven't we got one ?

There are plenty of difficulties for sure, but carers could have their own trade union. It's about organisation. But it's not just about organisation. It's also about caring enough. Carers don't yet care enough about themselves and their situation to get themselves organised.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A journey through education 5

The city of Derry in 1978 was still at war. It was here that the Institute of Continuing Education was based at Magee University College, the oldest part of the University of Ulster. Whilst waiting for the time for my job interview, I took a walk around. A bomb exploded as I walked past a shop. Fortunately it was only an incendiary device, of the kind with which I had become familiar in London during WW2. Many shops were boarded up and this beautiful city looked sad and forlorn. I spoke to some of the British soldiers, I had once been one of them myself, in another foreign place. They asked me questions about what I was doing there and I deduced that this was a part of a low-level intelligence gathering procedure. I visited the Free Derry wall in the Bogside. Later I was to go there many times, to watch the Saturday afternoon riots.

Of course, being English in Derry was a strange experience at that time, but, like others, I quickly became defined by my politics. This was a university setting and I was not constrained in the way I had been in the very different environment of Peterborough. The students were all mature and I had a great deal in common with them, whatever their politics.I made many friends. I could walk into the centre of the city, after a few years and would have to stop several times to chat to people I knew. I would go into a bar on my own and would shortly have friends coming over bearing drinks. I miss that.

On my interview day I asked a police person where the cathedral was. The Catholic or Protestant cathedral, he asked ? A divided city, but not divided equally. The nationalist community was, and is, in the large majority. Despite this the unionists ran the city for many years, because of gerrymandered ward boundaries. The old Church of Ireland cathedral was fascinating and full of history, but cold and unwelcoming somehow. The catholic cathedral was more modern, but glowing with warmth and candle light. Strange that I should feel more at home there, than in the cathedral which belonged to the communion into which I had been baptised. Not that I was tempted to convert. I had long since been an atheist. Now I think of myself more as an agnostic, whatever the disapproval of Dawkins may be. I feel that his stern rationalism leaves scant space for human emotionality.

Teaching in Derry was full of emotion and the political temperature was high. I had to decide at the beginning how to deal with my own political commitment. I adopted the simple expedient of explaining what my views were and telling students that they should make their own judgements. I would do my best to draw their attention to all the contending views in a debate. I was keen on heuristic learning and went in for some role playing. People were likely to find themselves in the situation of having to persuade their fellows of the validity of a political position opposed to their own. What fun.

I lived in residence for a while, before my family joined me. One day a detonator went off on campus, but the bomb itself failed to explode. Apparently there was a 'secret' RUC meeting taking place. The bomb disposal squad was called for, from my old corps, and we had to wait in the common room while the bomb was dismantled. The housekeeper, a stern Protestant woman whose cousin was a very senior RAF officer, played the piano and led us in a chorus of old wartime songs. Surreal or what ? Some years later when I was crossing the border at Strabane a bomb exploded in a shop, showering my car with glass. My young daughter was sitting in the back. Perhaps it was time to start thinking of returning home.

A registration system for carers ?

I believe that it is the informality of the family carer system which allows carers to be taken advantage of. If you are just looking after a close family member, no matter how much work is involved, then you are at best a deserving charity case, worthy of a small allowance, but still available for 'real' work. Hence the move to put carers on Job Seekers' Allowance.

Carers need to press for the establishment of a National Government Carers' Register. In the meantime, we should establish our own carers' register. Carers should be encouraged to submit an invoice to the government for the work they have done at the end of each month, deducting the allowances they have already received.

This would draw attention to the reality of carers' lives.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Carers deserve to be punished !

Some say good old Gordon................ At the Labour Party Conference this afternoon, New Labour Prime Gordon Brown paid a glowing tribute to carers. They do 'amazing work' he told the assembled delegates.

So why, if they are do such a good job, does Gordon propose to punish them? The government proposal, in their Green Paper, is to put carers onto Job Seekers Allowance. Doesn't doing 'amazing work' imply that full-time carers already have a job ? I mean, I don't want to jump to conclusions, but isn't caring very demanding, exhausting WORK ? I have to admit that I only have empirical evidence for this, discussing the experience of other carers with them, and being one myself. Don't carers save the exchequer large sums of money by doing this work ?

If you say, very publicly, that carers are doing 'amazing work' and then you deprive them of a decent living wage, what does that make you ? Just asking.