Offering dignity and security they deserve

MANY islanders with lengthy family connections in Guernsey will have experienced community care, either in terms of the service offered through Health and Social Care, or through seeing family members support others – one of our grandparents looking after the other, or sons and daughters taking daily responsibility for an elderly parent.

Such levels of care are not a surprise. When it comes to family, it’s what we do. Not taking responsibility to care for our own would feel wrong.

But sometimes we don’t fully understand just how intensive and extensive this care becomes. And then there’s uncertainty, which can turn to resentment, about just when and how the State should have stepped in to help.

It is easy for us to underestimate the importance of care in the community. Keeping people in their own homes for longer is known to have beneficial effects in terms of longevity, while for older people with dementia, removing them from familiar surroundings has been shown to result in faster cognitive decline. And there are estimated to be between 4 and 6,000 unpaid carers in Guernsey supporting those outcomes.

With a looming crisis in social care flagged up in Guernsey, it is no surprise that former Chief Minister Peter Harwood, now leading the charity Carers Guernsey, describes it as the ‘Cinderella of the health service’. Mr Harwood says that the States committed to improve support for carers back in 2019, but that has not happened.

‘Without an adequately resourced community healthcare service, the pressures on the countless numbers of informal, unpaid carers in the Bailiwick can only be expected to grow, but at what cost?’

It’s an issue in many jurisdictions. Even Boris Johnson committed to support this sector in his first speech as Prime Minister, pledging to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all and to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve’.

There are clear concerns today in our community. We await a response from HSC with interest. Will it ever be possible that, as demands for this service inevitably increase, Guernsey can be held up as an exemplar for care in our community?

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