This piece is hugely poignant as we approach Carers Week 7 – 13 June 2021, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
For the second day running since the Queen’s speech of 12th May, the front page of London’s Daily Mail pulled no punches: ‘Families’ Social Care Bill since PM’s broken promise … £14BN.’
The provision, cost and need for a coherent social care policy is one of the biggest day-to-day issues UK society is facing. The Dilnot Commission was set up in 2010, reported in 2011, promises were made during the election campaigns of 2015, 2017 and the prime minister promised a ‘clear’ plan was in place in 2019. Yet, still none of the recommendations of the Commission have been implemented to properly fund social care and remove the postcode lottery for care services. Yet again, this government failed to deliver on its promises and Britain’s largest circulating newspaper, like many of us, has had enough.
For twelve years, on and off, I have been a carer: first, supporting my heroic mother as she cared for my beloved father, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease; then, holding a watching brief for her as she negotiated life without him after nearly sixty years of marriage; now, as a full-time ‘extra pair of hands’ for my wonderful mother-in-law, known to everyone as Granny Rosie, who is still going strong at 90.
Carers UK estimate there could be as many as 8.8 million adult unpaid carers in the UK, a number that’s expected to shoot up in the next twenty years. Each year, some 2.1 million adults take on unpaid caring responsibilities for an elderly or disabled relative – and about the same number find their role as a carer coming to an end. There are many sole carers, with no family support, and a distressingly growing number of young carers looking after parents or siblings – The Children’s Society estimates there might be as many as 800,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 17 caring. Over a million carers are caring for more than one person – a figure that rocketed during the Covid pandemic – and the reality is that the biggest responsibility falls predominantly on daughters and daughters-in-law. In other words, my experience is common.
If you’re reading this, odds are you are in a similar position or that you know someone who is. By the age of fifty-nine, women have a fifty-fifty chance of being a carer (men don’t have those odds until they hit seventy-five). Nurses, accountants, teachers, retail workers, chemists, builders, CEOs, social workers, architects, homemakers, musicians, designers, vets, receptionists, novelist we are everywhere, hidden in plain sight. In other words, my experience is common. But what about those with no family? Those who didn’t, or couldn’t, have children? What about those who are estranged from their families or are bereaved? What about those with few resources and no support?
Unpaid carers save the UK economy some £132 billion per year, but we don’t care for our carers. We have to find a way so that people taking on this work are respected and valued for what they do and that our older citizens are allowed to live with dignity and grace. It doesn’t matter whether you live with the person for whom you’re caring, or if you are always there at the end of the phone, about whether a care home is the best option, staying supported in their own home or moving in with a family member, it’s about learning to put someone else’s daily needs at the heart of things.
An Extra Pair of Hands is a tribute to three extraordinary people, but it’s also a way to support those organisations and campaigns that are trying to make caring more visible, more valued. It’s a book about the nature of memory, about ageing well and dying well, about trying and failing simultaneously, about loss and learning to live with grief, about juggling work deadlines and unreliability, about our fading selves, about exhaustion, about partnership, about being lucky enough to be in a position to replay a lifetime of caring.
But, most of all, it’s a story about love.
Kate Mosse was interviewed by Lansons’ CEO Tony Langham for his book on Reputation Management. The interview covers Kate’s career, as well as societal issues and industry prejudices.
This feature is part of Lansons guest series covering topics on diversity, inclusion, equality and societal challenges, featuring inspirational guests who have dedicated their professional lives to making positive change.
Launched on 3rd June 2021, Kate’s latest book “An Extra Pair of Hands” is available to buy here.
"I read it in one sitting, and will be pressing into the hands of everyone I know" - Christie Watson
"A beautiful, emotional and timely read" - Matt Haig
"This is a truly beautiful book, shot through with honesty, heartbreak and joy. I loved it" - Adam Kay
"Luminous with love" - Nicci Gerrard
“A deeply moving story of what it means to care for those we love by bestselling author Kate Mosse.” – Profile Books
Kate Mosse OBE FRSL is an international No 1 bestselling novelist, speaker, playwright and nonfiction author with sales of more than eight million copies in 38 languages. Historical fiction includes the multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy - Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel - and The Burning Chambers and The City of Tears, the first two novels in a quartet of historical novels set against the backdrop of the French Wars of Religion. Gothic fiction includes The Winter Ghosts, The Mistletoe Bride and The Taxidermist's Daughter, which she has adapted for the stage and will receive its world premiere at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2022. She hosts the pre show interview series for CFT and hosts events for the National Theatre, as well as at literary festivals in the UK and further afield. Renowned for bringing unheard and under-heard histories to life, she is a champion of women's creativity. Kate is the Founder Director of the Women's Prize for Fiction and Founder of the global campaign Woman In History. A Visiting Professor of Contemporary Fiction and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Kate lives in West Sussex with her husband and mother-in-law and has two grown-up children.