Care (Older People)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:19 am on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Housing) 11:19 am, 6th September 2011

Thank you, Mr Streeter.

The work that the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford has done, together with the all-party group, is admirable. She is absolutely right to highlight the dilemma. Before I conclude, I will give one other example of the impact of what is happening in Birmingham. It is a combination of the cuts to big society organisations on the one hand and the impact on carers on the other. On big society organisations, the budget of Age Concern Kingstanding—my constituency is one of the 10 poorest in Britain, and Kingstanding is the poorest area in Erdington—is being cut. A particularly heart-breaking case concerns a group called Elders with Attitude. It has one co-ordinator and a range of volunteers. I remember the first time that I met them. They are inspirational. People were brought together around a table and told their story. One individual—another Frank—said he had had a terrible stroke and had thought that his life was over. The group meets twice a week and, in his words, it brought him back to life. His granddaughter, who was sitting alongside him, burst into tears and said, “My granddad used to just sit at home, looking at the wall. This has given him fresh lease of life.” This is essentially a voluntary initiative and initiatives of that kind should be supported, not least because, as the hon. Lady has said, stimulating people is of the highest importance to their quality of life and, ultimately, to their not having to go back into a hospital.

I want to give one other example of the impact on carers. In Birmingham, thousands of carers are employed directly by the council. I remember meeting a group of 20 of them in July. They were women who had worked for 10, 15, 20 or 25 years. They were the kind of women who go the extra mile in the job that they do. I remember meeting one of them coming out of Sainsbury’s in Castle Vale the Easter before last. She had a bag of Easter eggs. I asked, “Who are those for?” She said, “Half a dozen people I care for.” I asked, “Who’s paying for it?” She said, “Oh, I am of course.” She was buying Easter eggs for people who would not otherwise get them. Such was her bond of love and affection for the people for whom she cared. Sadly, she and all the people like her are now going to see cuts. They earn, typically, £14,000 a year. They will see, under the proposed Birmingham contract, a cut of £4,000. That is absolutely devastating.

What I hope unites us here is the focus on the need for the new dawn to be realised and for all parties to work together to put in place Dilnot’s recommendations, and to do so as quickly as we possibly can. Crucially, however, it is about what happens in the meantime, because the hallmark of a civilised society is whether we care for the most vulnerable in our ranks.