Dear Ed

Dear Ed

I have watched your programme on the social care system in tears not because of the stories you shared (although they are heartbreaking) but because this is truly only the tip of the iceberg. Carers are the backbone of this country holding the weight of the social care crisis upon them, yet how long can they continue to do so before they break, the whole system is hurting.

Whilst I really hope and pray your programme brings awareness to those in power I do feel that your journey cannot end here. To champion carers I ask you to please champion us all, so I invite you to come meet,visit, grab a cuppa with parent carers of children with disabilities like myself. Those that also care 24 hours a day with little respite or support and those who battle daily for our children to be seen worthy by our current government.

Let me introduce you to my son Daniel, he is a 7 year old bundle of love. He is cheeky, full of life and loves animals and his favourite person is Peter Wright the Yorkshire vet and I’m kind of ok with that. Yet to those in power he is a burden on society, when I ask for support I’m told priorities have to be made, when I ask for his basic needs to be met I’m told of a policy that doesn’t allow for it. This last year the word Covid could have be easily added to the dictionary with the definition “useful excuse “. I am not at all minimising the impact of the pandemic I like so many others have lost loved ones but when the word is used as an excuse I find it insulting and shameful. These issues were there before the pandemic and Covid has literally just been the light that has shined upon them, bringing them out of the shadows, yet it’s being used as an excuse to hide behind.

Parent carers are at the point of being broken, exhausted with the constant battling for services, the constant begging for support. Drained by the daily strain of caring, isolated in a world many cannot understand or even want to. Parents wanting to just be Mom and Dad instead of nurse, carer, physio and so much more. Our children have been forgotten, seen as not worthy in all areas including the Covid recovery plan. My son has been out of education since March of last year, his emotional health has been hit so hard by the isolation that he is now so scared that everyone is going to leave him that he panics if he cannot hear us. This panic has seen him hospitalised, panic attacks so severe that Drs nearly ventilated him before deciding to sedate him instead. Should this happen to any 7 year old?

My son is being judged by his disabilities and conditions rather than by his spirit and determination. Assuming disability means a lack of understanding, judging communication by the lack of words.

Personally I’m exhausted waiting on a GP appointment to finally seek help for the pain that I am in. I’ve had one full nights sleep since 2016 but I cannot find carers to take on my direct payment hours, the level of his complexities scary in comparison to the wage I can offer. My husband and I had been out of work since the beginning of pandemic, we are foster carers but shielding doesn’t allow this to happen. We are lost both physically, emotionally and financially.

Yet I’m faced by comments like “well you are loaded” it’s seems my child’s disability payment is vast in the eyes of others , oh and don’t forget our free van, what a lucky boy my son is, ignorance feeding the isolation.

Yet what happens if I break who will then care for my child? What if I get sick, this fear has eaten away at me for the last 18 months the little sleep I get broken by this anxiety. Even now I am scared to go anywhere for the fear of bringing the virus home to Daniel. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at the beginning of this month at a McDonald’s takeaway, what rock an roll lives we lead.

Yet this situation hasn’t just arisen due to the pandemic, this as you highlighted in your programme is partly due to the reduction in local authorities budgets which has dramatically hit families like mine. It is also due to the lack of respect for the job of a carer both paid or unpaid, the dismissing of what is a skilled and demanding role. Also things like respite or home care is a not a priority to most and doesn’t win votes, well that’s until they need it of course.

Our children, are the forgotten ones, the pandemic began and our doors closed and services disappeared. Children waiting for equipment for far too long, wheelchairs to small yet the only way a child can travel. Isolating and heartbreaking.

The void of this pandemic has been filled by some incredible charities but is it their place to protect the vulnerable or should that be the role of our government?

I hope I am preaching to the converted, your empathy and compassion shown on this programme made me wish your were back in politics. Maybe we need more politicians and policy makers to go on a journey like yours.

All I ask is that this programme is not the end of your discovery into the world of social care, that you would consider coming and meeting with families like mine, with the charities advocating for us.

The government says “every child matters” help me and many others make sure our child matters.

Daniel matters.

Stop celebrating the numbers.

As a foster carer I love reading articles regarding fostering, those that celebrate both the wonderful people that open their homes and hearts to children in need but also, and maybe more so the amazing children that come into the lives of foster carers like myself. I adore reading about their strength and courage and their innate desire to change their story.

Still there is one thing that really frustrates me about some conversations regarding fostering and this the celebration around the numbers.

Let me explain, only a week ago I read an article about a foster carer who in her life had fostered over 5000 children and whilst the couple are pretty amazing my heart breaks that over 5000 children needed a home.

5000 children worlds were turned upside down, 5000 children were walking again into an unknown out of their control.

In England alone

  • 56,160 children were living with foster families on 31 March 2019.
  • This is 72 per cent of the 78,150 children in care looked after away from home (Department for Education, 2018).

This isn’t a number we should be celebrating.

Don’t get me wrong, whilst I am so thankful and proud to work in foster care it’s one profession where I wish I was unemployed and not needed.

The other reason I struggle with numbers is that some foster carers will never have 5000 children through their doors, not because they don’t work as hard or aren’t as open, but because they foster long term. Take myself I have now fostered for over 10 years and only 4 children have come to me. This isn’t a failing on my behalf it’s because when they come to our family it’s with a plan for a long term stay and in the case of my now adopted son,forever. There are many different streams of foster care, from respite, emergency to short and long term, from a fostering perspective it’s not about the number of children we have but the lives we can impact upon.

Fostering is an incredible job and one I’m incredibly proud of doing but it is hard at times when the numbers are celebrated.

To me, those numbers are hearts, broken scared hearts that crave love and stability. They are vulnerable spirits craving somewhere to call home.

The only time will should be celebrating the numbers is when the number of children needing to be fostered is reduced and when the amount of families kept together and supported is rising. Then I promise I will be celebrating the loudest.

 

There has to be a line they don’t cross.

I’m on holiday right now trying hard to deal with memories that are haunting me whilst creating new ones to cherish and love.

Yet even here in the middle of nowhere I cannot avoid the arguments and discussions following the interview given by Samantha Cameron about the loss of her son Ivan.  

Part of me wants to be naive right now and believe that this a mother just opening her heart about the pain and devastation she has felt from the loss of her son.

I want to remember the shared look we exchanged as we acknowledged the loss of our children. How that brief moment in Downing Street span across economic backgrounds into empathy and shared understanding.

As a grieving mother I cannot imagine a mom using this loss as a campaign tactic.

Please no.

Yet as naive as I wish to be the Cameron’s  have already proven that all experiences, all struggles are open for exploitation.

We remember David Cameron telling us he understood  how hard it is to raise a disabled child. How he will be supporting families as they struggle. Only for him to walk back over all his promises in a dramatic fashion. With cuts to services and benefits that have dramatically left people struggling to survive. 

Cut in services

Bedroom tax 

Local government budgets being slashed leading to less respite, play schemes etc etc.

And so much more. 

Even now if leaked information is to be trusted if the conservatives stay in power there will be more cuts coming to those who are disabled and those caring for them.

To be truthful I am lost for words. 

The whole situation is making my stomach ache.

I want to believe that this story, that Samantha Cameron’s interview is not part of the campaign trail.

I want to honestly believe that she is not exploiting the hearts of those like myself who grieve desperately for their child.

In fact I have to believe this. 

To accept anything else would make me question humanity.

Would make me question everything.

Surely there has to be a line a political party won’t cross?