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.


Friday, 27 August 2010

Ideally we should have grandchildren before we have our own children – that way we would eradicate basic errors and be much better parents. Jan and I are just getting our breath back having looked after our two ragamuffins for a mere 36 hours. We chased monsters through the woods, attacked stinging nettles with light-sabres and watched a ridiculous Scooby-Do film. We had to toss a coin to decide between MacDonald's and KFC and, I am very happy to report that the latter (my favourite) won. We loved every chaotic minute, but are now exhausted! This is not something we are designed to do in our mid fifties when the joints are just starting to complain and energy levels plummet towards zero surprisingly quickly.
Spare a thought then for the growing number of people of similar age who are bringing up their grandchildren full time. They cannot hand them back when the little angels start grizzling. There is no car pulling up outside to whisk them away when your favourite TV programmes start. These true champions have volunteered, not because it was their perfect life plan, but because their own child is somehow incapable. Sometimes this is because both natural parents have been killed in a car accident, but more usually because the adult child is rendered incapable by an addiction to heroin or a losing battle with mental illness. I have met many people in this unenviable situation, and they are all heroes.
We do not do enough to support them. If they had not stepped forward it would have cost the state a lot more and the children would have lost out. But because they are blood family our welfare system does not underpin their wonderful commitment with the financial support that would help them to do an even better job.
It is easy to see why this has been the case. Sadly we know that if the benefit system was more generous to relatives who step in to raise the children of family members, a lot more people, less well motivated than the heroic group of which I write, would restructure their arrangements just to be able to claim benefits. The welfare bill would go through the roof.
In the reforms currently being thrashed out behind the scenes, I hope we will find a new degree of flexibility. We have to be better at getting help to deserving people, the ones who really need it.

posted by Gary @ 16:59