Carers who look after the elderly are ‘critical workers’, vital in the fight against the Coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week. Those with children will still be able to send them to school so they can go on working.
It’s a stark contrast to the tone evinced by last month’s new immigration rules, which closed the door on overseas workers by ending visas for ‘low-skilled ‘workers earning less than £25,000 a year. That got a furious response in the press, with one writer headlining her article, ‘How dare they call care workers unskilled?’ Lord Leeming wrote to the Times pointing out that care workers have more than practical skills – they also have invaluable personal qualities. Another writer mentioned the extraordinary carers from Ghana, the Philippines and Poland, who achieved what neither medical professionals nor family members could do: ‘they raised my mother’s spirits daily with their joyful and dedicated care. Low-paid? Certainly. Low-skilled? Never.’
Seems it takes the worst of times to show the best in life: and it’s always about people. The value of carers to the UK economy is more than £138 billion a year, according to Carers UK, but the value each carer brings to a disabled, or an elderly person can’t be counted in cash terms. It’s beyond price. They go more than the traditional mile: whether in a care home or in a private home.
But God notices every one, as the story of Jesus and the ‘widow’s mite’ makes clear, Mark 12: 41-44. Even more, He takes it personally. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,’ He says, (Matthew 25:40).
It’s time now for the Government to acknowledge their vital role by putting more money into social care. A temporary injection of £2.9 billion has been promised, but it needs more than that – it needs a sustainable, properly funded social care plan. That would give carers not just a good salary, but see them valued at the same level as other health providers, such as nurses and doctors.