Moving visit to children’s hospice

LAST month I was delighted to welcome the Liberal Democrat Leader, Sir Ed Davey, to Dorset for a visit to Julia’s House Children’s Hospice.

Ed was a young carer for his parents and, after they died, for his grandmother, and has a son with severe disabilities. I worked for another Dorset disability charity that provides respite and day care, so I know families who use its services and have seen their struggles.

After a tour of its stunning facilities, including a chance to have a play with the sensory toys, we chatted with chief executive Martin Edwards and parent ambassador Emma Jerram about their hopes for the future.

We learned about the impact – physically and emotionally – on families of providing care around the clock and how mothers of children with life-limiting conditions have increased risk of heart problems as well as increased mental ill health.

Family breakdown is also common in families who have to deal not only with the emotional challenges of caring for their child but the financial struggles.

It was so lovely to see photos of the founders, Mike Wise, a local Liberal Democrat councillor, and Julia Perks – the nurse whose vision he was able to deliver – in the hallway and to understand how minor changes in the way respite is prioritised and delivered can make such a difference to families.

So many of us will be family carers, sometimes referred to as unpaid carers, in our lives. Whether for parents, partners or tragically for a child with complex needs or a life-limiting condition, there is little recognition of the impact across every part of life, and this is why the Liberal Democrats continue to talk about this forgotten area of work.

We are pleased that Government has recognised the need for a Department of Health and Social Care, but it is now time to deliver real change and put care on a much stronger footing. It makes financial sense, too. Care in communities is less expensive than a hospital bed but there are wider financial benefits. Respite could mean parents can stay in employment and stay healthier.

Parents and siblings who are well, can not only work and spend money in the economy, but also have a smaller burden on the health service. We need a joined-up approach by Government around the fiscal benefits of a healthier, more active population, whether it’s in improving homes and fuel poverty to reduce damp-related illness, improving air quality to reduce asthma or providing respite for carers.

I was deeply moved by our visit, and I know Ed was too, and I am confident that whatever policies the Liberal Democrats prepare for the next election manifesto the needs of those who provide care – whether as part of their job or through their family life – will be integral.

Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – Mid Dorset & North Poole

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