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, 21 April 2011

Jan and I have just handed back our two grandchildren having looked after them for 6 days. My duties ranged from participating in a game called Gladiators (where the objective was to bludgeon each other into submission with huge inflatable space hoppers in the front garden) to assisting in the play station Star wars III game where I proved to be a huge disappointment to them. We survived, it was great fun, but we collapsed into the weekend exhausted.
Spare a thought therefore for the 200,000 couples in this country (including several locally) of our age and older, who look after their grandchildren full time, either because of a tragic death of one or more natural parents or more likely because of drug addiction or mental health difficulties. I have met several of them over the years and they are inspirational. Sadly they receive precious little support from the welfare state.
I read in this morning's papers that a child in care over the age of five is rarely adopted and destined to remain in institutional care and slither almost certainly into under-achievement. We have placed too many barriers in the way of good-hearted people trying to help others.
I once asked a friend of mine, a director of a national charity which has impacted thousands of lives, what he considered to be his greatest achievement. He told the story of how a tramp called Ronnie had knocked on their door one Christmas, 20 years ago, clutching a frozen Turkey asking if he could possibly cook it in their kitchen. He is still living with them today. "Ronnie used to smell and now he doesn't, that is my greatest achievement," was my friend's response.
Baden-Powell's last message to the scouting movement contained these words: "the real way to get happiness is by giving out to other people." Our welfare system should reflect that important truth. In the radical overhaul of welfare upon which the coalition government has embarked, I shall be looking to ensure that our system incentivises people to do the right thing and gives them more support in seeking to help others. Grandparents caring for their children; people adopting a difficult child; mentoring, caring, volunteering and serving the community, all of these things should be better recognised, encouraged and rewarded in our welfare system.
Easter is about new life coming from death; a fresh start. We need that now, more than ever, for our welfare system.

posted by Gary @ 17:06