Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 12 November 2009


Just imagine it, your kids are of your hands, you are in your early or late fifties, maybe older, have slogged your guts out all of your life and are looking forward to a few years of "me" time with your spouse, in spite of the fact that he now has hair growing out of his ears and quite a few bits of his body have moved south. Saga holidays, washed down by the occasional visit to a National Trust property, beckon.

But then events take a dramatic turn for the worse and you end up having to bring up your grandchildren full time.

This is the fate of over 200,000 people in this country. Parents again. It was not what they had planned; it was not of their making. In most cases it has come about because their own son or daughter has fallen into the dark pit of drugs dependency and is no longer capable of raising his or her own children. You face an awesome choice: tear up all of your plans or watch those little children who you have bounced on your knee, who listened adoringly to your absurd made up tales about Jimmy Crow and Bim-Bam the magic horse, placed into foster or local authority care.

I sat with a group of people just like this in Plymouth on Friday to hear their stories. It was humbling and compelling. Many of them are struggling financially as well as emotionally and physically, to take on such unplanned responsibilities just when they should be taking it a bit easier. Needless to say, many of the children concerned were scarred by the experience that had led to the intervention and getting them back on the straight and narrow is a demanding task.

Well, at least, you say, the welfare state would recognise this selfless act that will save the country hundreds of thousands in fostering costs. Wrong. There is no separate recognition for this kind of intervention. But there should be. As I have often argued, our support system does too much for some people but not enough for others. Not only are they saving the tax payer a fortune, but with all of their grey-haired parenting experience, they are producing well turned out future citizens that would not happen if the state became the parent of last resort.

This group certainly deserves more support and I shall try and make sure it happens.

posted by Gary @ 13:17