Thursday, 15 May 2008

The WI cares about carers...

And the lively debate we had at the recent forum held in Admiralty House proved that. But what a disappointment we had in the absence of Harriet Harman. It was a shame that the Minister for Women missed such a golden opportunity to learn at first hand the raw deal of carers and the care situation.

The intelligence, knowledge, broad expertise, opinion and thoughtfulness that came through the discussion topics from the WI members present provided a rich and, as yet, untapped insight into the kaleidoscope that is caring in the 21st century.

Admittedly, I went into the discussion with a narrow understanding of the issue based on personal perspective of childcare and how small businesses could cope with more employee policy and regulation. However listening to these ladies not only greatly improved my knowledge and awareness of this difficult and sensitive issue and also humbled me in the process.

Availability of respite care, recognition of carers roles, support for carers, two-tier charging of homes and access to benefits were some of the topics, amongst many, that were discussed. What came across clearly is the fact that at some point in a WI member’s lifetime, we are all likely to take on a caring role or indeed need caring for ourselves.

Beyond the WI, as the institute has always been a leading figure (see WI Life Issue 12 for our latest article), carers appear to be the silent majority. Whilst attention is given to diversity policies and ethics, and in spite of the recent Government consultation, the role and value of carers seems to be unappreciated, unrecognised and second rate. The recent news story about the death of a mother and her disabled son in Redditch is tragic and sadly demonstrates the magnitude of stress and anxiety a carer is left to shoulder alone. At NFWI, we believe that needs to change and promptly.

I salute those WI members who attended the forum, in particular the lady who has a 24/7/365 job of caring for her husband who suffers from dementia, and the fact that we all managed to find time from our day jobs to attend this important meeting.

So I urge Ms Harman to speak with WI once more for your gain and to the benefit of carers*. Perhaps we will have a resolution on this next year to support our voice, and then action will be necessary!

Caroline Macdonald

* Our discussions in the forum were recorded verbatim and sent for approval by those who attended. This document will then be delivered to Harriet Harman.

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