View from the street: Kind and more imaginative provision for carers to lessen acute loneliness

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 June 2018


A few weeks ago the “literati” of Crouch End were invited to celebrate the first birthday of our new Waterstones.

Its anniversary party was open to the public and felt a bit like having our own little corner of the Hay festival all to ourselves.

I was among seven local authors asked to read from a passage of a favourite book published in the last year.

I chose an achingly poignant, sparely written couple of pages about the life of Irene, who cares for her son Andrew with special needs, from Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13.

It’s a tiny vignette in a novel that is itself a vignette about a community.

It caught my eye because writers rarely tackle the story of the carer – the aloneness of a life so often made worse because it can feel that no one really understands.

Richard Curtis also captured this beautifully in his 2003 film Love Actually – with the character of Sarah who loses her lover Karl when her institutionalised mentally ill brother becomes uncontrollable without her.

In one of the most devastatingly sad moments of the film, we see her missing the party and weeping bitterly as she realises she cannot sustain both relationships.

Stories are a means by which imagination, understanding, and thereby kindness, can grow.

JK Rowling celebrated imagination in her famous Harvard University address: “Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced.

“They can think themselves into other people’s places.”

It will be interesting to see whether the new Labour leadership of Haringey Council, now with an expanded coterie of Lib Dem councillors, will distinguish itself as being any kinder and more imaginative in its provision to carers and their disabled family members.

The last lot demonstrated neither quality, with a slash and burn policy over 10 years that has left us with virtually no publicly provided lunch clubs, day centres or residential homes.

One of the last acts of our outgoing councillors was to sign the death warrant of Haringey’s last publicly provided nursing home, Osborne Grove in Stroud Green, leaving only one elderly nursing facility in the whole of Haringey, over in Tottenham.

At our pre-election carers’ hustings last month, Cllr Zena Brabazon, representing Labour, admitted that they had fallen short: “I will not defend the closures which took place,” she said.

“Our inward looking council needs to become an outward looking one. Working with users and families is critical. We want to change and rebuild trust.”

There have already been a couple of green shoots: the closure of Osborne Grove has been put on hold, and the council is reinstating the £1,000 grant for our carers’ coffee morning – so carers, who very rarely get a holiday, can have their annual seaside trip after all.

It is early days.

With the political pack re-shuffled and a quite a few new characters added, we will have to wait and see whether the page has been turned and a new story is about to be told.

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