Welcome to the UK in 2009 where child labour is rife

I like to listen to late-night phone-ins to help me get to sleep; but one recently on BBC Radio 5Live certainly kept me awake.

To mark National Carers Week listeners were invited to ring in with their stories and as the evening unfolded, so a pattern emerged of people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicity basically saving the government millions by caring for relatives and friends and not being paid for the service. Radio is excellent for graphic imagery; we were asked to picture a businessman moving from the boardroom to his mother’s bathroom and talking of losing the plot when she wet the floor of the kitchen.

Disabled person and carerI have been around care a long time but only from the point of view of a paid carer; either as a residential social worker or social worker/commissioning manager. More latterly, since changing careers and working with helping care organisations with publicity and marketing, I have come to realise that this army of unpaid social workers is fighting an unjust war. Stephen Nolan’s programme highlighted the flaws in a system that allows teenagers to spend leisure (and sometimes school) time looking after a disabled relative instead of enjoying a youth they will look back on as empty.

And as the programme presented Stephen Nolan pointed out, he has run this story on a number of occasions and nothing much seems to have changed, other than potential tax breaks for adult carers. Carers organisations are doing fantastic work helping carers with respite breaks and support but it does seem absurd that a country as rich as the UK has to rely on what is little more than child labour to care for its disabled and elderly population. But then I read today that the chief exec of British Airways is asking staff to follow his lead and work for a few weeks gratis to help the company out of its financial difficulties. That’s really nice of him to give up £61,000 (one month of his annual salary). Presumably, if one of his relatives was in the unfortunate position of not being able to control their bowels he would still be able to pay for luxury care, despite his noble gesture of giving up a month’s salary.

What’s the Biggs deal?

This story caught my eye;

Daily Mail: Biggs wins freedom and a £30,000 care home place on us

I’m old enough to remember the Great Train Robbery and an unpleasant crime it most certainly was. I also remember when I was travelling in South America 30 years ago meeting a guy in a bar in Rio who said he could arrange for me to meet Ronnie Biggs (for a fee), an offer I declined. Of course, had Biggs not been sprung from jail, he would have served his time and gone into relative obscurity. That he became a darling of the gutter press says a lot about our country. And now that Biggs is nearing the end of his life, the same gutter press are desperate to squeeze every last drop of blood out of him to sell more newspapers.

Prison is clearly a totally inappropriate place to care for Biggs. He never murdered anyone (the train driver who was struck by the robbers did not die of that injury), he has served around eight years since his return to the UK and he has suffered strokes. It is irrelevant whether he is a prisoner; he requires nursing care. The crimes of the past have nothing to do with his current medical state so it is hard to see why there is any criticism of what surely is a medical decision. But no; the chairman of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Matthew Elliott said this: ‘Why on earth should taxpayers have to fund this criminal’s five-star care when their own health and welfare needs are not adequately met?”

Matthew, I don’t know when you last visited a nursing home but there is little ‘five-star’ about any of the hundreds I have seen over the years as a social worker and then poacher turned gamekeeper in helping homes market themselves. There is nothing five-star about needing another person to aid with toileting and bathing; there is nothing five star about having to ask for help in turning over in bed. I could go on. The implication of Mr Elliott’s argument is that Mr Biggs might be deserving of nursing care as long as it is not ‘five star’!

The bottom line is this; Biggs has done his time (with sentencing these days he would probably have got a slap on the wrist by His Honour and sent to do community work in the nearest, er, nursing home), so leave the guy alone to live out the rest of his life.

At destroying a human being, Britain’s got talent

We don’t have any images of Susan Boyle in our library, but after what has happened to the lady with the fabulous voice over the past few weeks we could approach her to model for us under the category ‘victim of the media’. Susan’s story tells us more about our society than it does about her remarkable talent for singing. The Britain’s Got Talent formula is the 21st century equivalent of the fairground knuckle fighters, elephant men and Houdinis; all that is missing is for the contestants to be churned out to the lions. No problem, the gutter press have an abundance of talent filling that role.

Susan’s fortune is her obvious talent, her misfortune is that in order to realise it she has to combat the icons of celebrity lifestyle; front page of the Mirror, Star, Sun followed by a few nights at The Priory and rounded off with a hefty contract a large percentage of which is bound to make her agent enough dosh to keep him off the front pages of the tabloids.

I would wager that had Susan not made the semi-finals she would never have been admitted to a clinic. And the lame excuse put forward by the producers that auditioning for the show is voluntary is no different to our MPs telling us that the money they took was ‘within the rules’. The show makes millions of pounds for the producers; with those riches comes a responsibility to protect the people who are making the money for them. Don’t tell me the PR behemoths that open all the doors in the press for these money printing enterprises cannot tell the same press to go easy on vulnerable people who are dreaming of whiter Christmases. Ah, I get it, having Susan Boyle splashed across the front page of the Sun is an integral part of the PR campaign. How silly of me.