When kindness is not enough

Written by: Lynn Williams, Unpaid carer

Published: 12/02/2020

Lynn reflects on the need to move beyond kind words if Scotland is to truly become a compassionate, progressive country.

When I was approached to write this piece for the Carer Voices project, I was asked to consider kindness and love in relation to care and caring.  I reflected back on previous blogs where I highlighted the importance of kindness and humanity in public services – and how this is often missing when carers seek help or even when they reach crisis.

Of course, I can say the same thing again, because nothing has really changed for carers. Harsh? Perhaps. However,  the recent JRF Poverty report (this link will take you away from our website) says otherwise.  Lack of affordable and accessible housing, the decimation of social care and a fragmented benefits system leave families isolated, destitute and with reduced life expectancy. Unpaid carers and people with disabilities are at greater risk of being left well behind.

If you listened to the words of our politicians here in Scotland, you would think that we are different – that Scotland is progressive, caring and compassionate.  And I think the intention to create that kind of country is genuinely there.

We hear talk of a wellbeing economy, of a social contract which lifts people when they need to be lifted.  We see human rights principles contained within the National Performance Framework. Of course, this is to be welcomed. But warm words don’t help when you are isolated and alone, when the care and support you need to stay safe overnight is being removed; when you have to choose between paying for support to help you get out and participate in your community or paying your rent.  Warm words don’t help when you cannot use your respite budget in ways which work for you; they cease to have any meaning when you have to sit in a soulless waiting room crying out for help for your disabled child and you have reached breaking point.

Kindness is a lovely concept – and my husband and I have experienced this first hand on many occasions. My GP passing me a hankie and listening quietly as I break down due to the pressure of caring; the consultant who listens to my husband and tries to adapt treatment to ensure it is accessible.

I have also experienced the very opposite – and that’s where I come back to what I have written previously. Because we are no further forward. We continue as a country to devalue unpaid care and to treat people with disabilities as less than human. Where is kindness in this scenario?

Like many carers, I have lost trust in our political system – carers’ voices are rarely listened to. Not one political party in Scotland truly understands the complexity of what we have here – of the multiple factors colliding to create chaos and poverty and family breakdown. And some of the analyses of poverty miss out key elements such as the impact of care charging and the loss of invaluable care and support.

So, my message as we approach Valentine’s day is not one of hope, or love – because until we are TRULY honest about the kind of country we are just now, there cannot be hope.

HOWEVER, I really don’t want to finish on such a depressing note.  Because last week, we had the report of the Independent Care Review (this link will take you away from our website). As cynical as I am, the report and the review process both act as beacons, shining a light on how we might create a better, fairer and more compassionate country.

By listening to care experienced children, recommendations for change were grounded in reality and founded on love and kindness.  If only government policy was created this way, at every level of Government, we might stand a change of being the kind of country so many of us hope for.

I’ll hang onto that hope for now.

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