Wes Streeting hosted a Carers' Forum with Labour's Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, in Ilford North this week to give local carers the chance to directly influence the Labour Party's policies to support carers ahead of the general election next year.
Wes Streeting writes:
'This week, I hosted a Carers' Forum with Labour's Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, as part of my commitment to bringing senior politicians to Ilford North so that local people have a chance to feed into national policies. I chose to organise a Forum on care, because I've become increasingly aware of some of the issues affecting Britain's carers and wanted to hear directly from carers locally and some of the organisations with an interest in this area. I really wasn't prepared for what followed.
'The meeting was incredibly moving and emotional. What struck me more than anything was the battles that some of our carers had endured on top of the struggles that come with caring for others. Many of these battles were with the state, whether it was local government, schools or the complex web of organisations involved in providing health and social care to older people. It struck me that these are the very organisations that should be helping, not hindering, carers.
'We heard stories about individuals who had left their own jobs and careers, moved home and turned their own lives upside down to care for relatives. Given that carers are often juggling with managing their own lives and work with caring for others, I was left wondering: who's caring for our carers?
'I was also pleased that we had some of our local foster carers with us. They described some of the bureaucracy that they have to go through while caring for children whose family lives have been disrupted. I certainly came away with some questions to ask our own Council about how we might better empower our foster carers to do their best by children in our care.
'I know that Liz Kendall left with a notebook full of ideas and feedback for her team in Westminster to consider as they plan policies for the next Labour government and I left with no doubt that the local authority need to look specifically at what we're doing for carers as part of our wider focus on health and adult social care. I really felt like we'd barely scratched the surface with an hour long conversation, so I'll be organising further discussions after the local election.
'I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended, particularly our carers. The demands on their time are formidable, so I'm particularly grateful that they gave up their time to share their experiences.
'I'll be holding further meetings with leading politicians on topical issues before Christmas. If there are particular topics you'd like me to cover, please get in touch via my website.'