During Tuesday night’s Prime Time programme about how carers and their loved ones are suffering under cutbacks, I watched Twitter for commentary on the show.
It’s a great way of monitoring how people are reacting to a TV programme or an ongoing debate, and the huge amount of comments on the subject showed that it really hit home.
The situations of the people featured were difficult, heartbreaking and sometimes downright insufferable. Carers contribute invisibly to a society that does not recognise their contribution.
While it’s a welcome opener for a fresh push on carers’ rights, the programme contained nothing new. If you are a regular person living a regular life, with family, friends and neighbours with varied incomes and the usual assortment of mental and physical ailments people suffer in life, there should have been nothing new in it.
If you have an elderly relative in need of a home help or nursing home care, you will have experienced a degree of what the people featured experience every day. If you have a disabled child and can’t get them speech therapy or physiotherapy or respite care, you will have experienced it. If you have a family member with a mental illness, who has to live alone and vulnerable because of cutbacks to their residential care facilities, you will know about it. If you look after a family member who has waited so long for vital surgery that they cannot walk, you know about it.
What I couldn’t get over was how shocked by the programme people appeared to be. Tweets like “This is the Ireland nobody sees” and “I just can’t believe this” were more shocking to me than anything I saw on the television.
If you have not seen that the way we do things in the country was causing this inequality long before there was any bank bailout, you are blind. Or self-centred. Or both. Because almost everyone knows someone in one of the situations above.
Before any recession or any bank bailout I knew children who could not get special needs care, schools that were falling down but wouldn’t be re-built, and people waiting for years on hospital lists because they couldn’t afford private healthcare. None of this is new, and most of it is nothing to do with cutbacks.
Cutbacks are making it worse, and will continue to do so. But before there were any cutbacks, when the Government was throwing money at problems, we still had a two-tier health system; we still had very little community care; there was no support for carers beyond a rare respite place and a pittance of a payment; and inequality was ingrained in our society.
As one person replied to me on Twitter when I commented to this effect, “I’m alright Jack… until I see it on the television.”
We voted for low taxes and we voted for a Government that wanted to build private hospitals on public land and subsidise private healthcare companies. After voting that way, we used our new found “wealth” to buy health care and basic services for our children, elderly and disabled family members.
Now that so few of us have that money to spend, our lack of basic systems is hitting the middle classes. The new Government has promised to reform the health system, and after Enda Kenny‘s comments in the Dáil on the issue of carers, it’s to be hoped they will look the same way at the provision of care.
- Caring for the Carers: Dealing with Depression in Carers (brighthub.com)
- Women and the coalition: social care (guardian.co.uk)
- Carers rightly call a spade a spade (politics.ie)
- Juggling the Costs of Dementia Care (everydayhealth.com)