View from the street: Warm poetry pays tribute to love of carers sadly failed by both main political parties


- Credit: Archant

“Shall I stroke you? He asked once more. And wrap round you my loving, warm body. To remember. Let’s try, I say, to reach the bed from your chair. In vain.” (Vaughan Melzer, carer, Oct 2018)

It was national Poetry Day a week ago (Thu), and once again our packed weekly carers’ coffee morning in Crouch End celebrated it, many with their own poems.

There is something extraordinary about these (mostly) women, some themselves with disabilities.

Visitors, even those politically hardened councillors who hold a weekly surgery for us, will often remark upon the amazing, wonderfully warm feeling of this group.

I have wondered a lot about this over the seven years we have been together now, and maybe the specialness of carers is actually that – they care.

Carers are nice people! They are the ones in every family who say: “OK, the buck stops right here. I will get up in the night, wipe you down, be there, do whatever it takes, because that is what love is.”

There are more than seven million family carers in the UK.

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They save the country billions of pounds per year – yet a carer receives just £64.60 a week in carer’s allowance for a minimum of 35 hours.

Carers have always been badly treated by the public sector, but for nearly 10 years, they and their disabled family members have also borne the brunt of austerity.

Prime Minister Theresa May might have twirled at her podium and pretended that it’s all over, but here in Haringey even the pantomime ended long ago.

Its publicly provided day centres and residential homes have disappeared.

Even its discretionary £300 grant for respite care has been chopped.

Carers have been failed by politicians on both the left and the right.

This summer’s cross-government “action plan” did not include any focus on financial help for carers.

At the recent Labour Party conference, social care hardly got a mention in the major speeches.

Our weekly carers respite group is not provided by Labour’s Haringey Council but a tiny church called Abide.

The churches are generous here in north London and are spearheading an interesting trend.

St James Church in Muswell Hill began Wave (We Are all Valued Equally) club nine years ago and is now starting a social enterprise café – staffed by the community working alongside local people with learning disabilities.

Four years ago, Crouch End’s St Peter’s RC church listened to the loneliness of learning disabled families at weekends and began the thriving Seeds Saturday club.

Maybe when communities genuinely get together, something special begins to happen for everyone – everyday stresses fall away and we start to learn from each other.

We begin to feel valued. And when that happens we all soar.

We wrote a poem together last Thursday.

“There is nothing you can do about the ticking of the clock,

“But please know how much you are loved.

“And stand, stand on that rock.”