My View, Peter Burrows - We must support our elderly

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.

Longevity runs in my family. My grandmother died aged 106 and my mother when she was 90. I hope I have some of their genes.

My mother lived on her own for many years after my father’s death and was visited regularly by myself, brother and sister – though in reality most of the care fell to my elder sister. We were determined that my mother would not go into care as long as we were able to manage her support at home, which we did until the day she died. My parents similarly cared for my grandmother from when she was 97 until 106 after she fell downstairs.

The pressure of caring for my mother brought its particular challenges and opportunities for her and the rest of the family, as it did for my parents and grandmother but it was a privilege. There are many in Doncaster offering home support and care for members of the family and even close friends. They know the mixture of frustration, challenge, sometimes desperation and privilege, and they’re to be applauded for the care they lovingly offer – especially when they receive little support from professional caring services and agencies.

However, it’s not always possible to offer appropriate levels of care at home and some have to rely on professional care services such as residential homes to offer the levels of support that can only be provided by specialists. This is particularly true for those with no immediate family or friends to care for them. Care homes provide places of medical support and reduce risk, the sense of isolation and loneliness for the most vulnerable and frail.

As we know our own council has faced major issues in how to make provision for residential care. There are many in Doncaster for whom this is creating considerable anxiety and worry. We also know there are protests and strikes designed to raise public awareness and safeguard residential care.

It is with sadness that I read this week that almost 90 per cent of councils in England no longer offer social care to people whose needs are ranked low to moderate. There’s a warning cuts are making the care system unsustainable. Although the Government has provided extra funding to help protect social care, charities are reporting that thousands of people are struggling without help.

Reports also indicate the number of councils able to help at the lower end of social care had fallen as they struggle, like our own, to balance the budget.

My family was lucky that it could afford to care for my mother at home and also provide for her physical needs which were at the lower end of the social care requirements. I don’t fully understand the complexities of council budgets or how they will square the circle of spending limits which mean some services must be cut. But what I do know from personal experience is that we can’t let the senior members of our families and communities suffer at a time of life when they should be able to expect the utmost care, respect and dignity.

* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster