Wealth and Welfare in Blair's Britain

Article excerpt

Wealth and welfare in Blair's Britain

ON the day the Prime Minister almost certainly announces his long-overdue departure date, an ever more disturbing picture emerges of the state of public services in Blair's Britain, ten years on.

First, shocking figures from the Princess Royal Trust for Carers show that some 175,000 children - some as young as five - are being robbed of their childhood as they are forced to care for sick relatives.

Their stories would move anyone to tears. Listen to 18-year-old Laura Baxter from Aberdeen, who has cared for members of her family for most of her life.

Her father developed polio as a child, wears a caliper and suffers from manic depression. Her 19-year-old brother has autism and her late mother, Linda, had epilepsy before she died earlier this year.

She says: 'I was first told I was a young carer at nine years old, but I've been caring since I've been able to do anything.

'If someone has a seizure they will just pass out and are not aware of it but people see them shaking uncontrollably. They will then go to sleep for a bit and you have to make sure they are comfortable.' Where, in the chaos of our increasingly expensive, increasingly inefficient welfare services, is the help these stoical young people need to allow them to enjoy some semblance of a normal childhood?

For a few, such as 13-year-old Deanne Asamoah, the strain of having to feed, wash and nurse a sick relative proved too great. She took her own life after being left for four years to care for her mother.

The coroner at her inquest was so horrified that he wrote to Children's Minister Beverley Hughes, demanding an inquiry into the 'scandalous situation' in which so many children are burdened with such heavy responsibilities.

And what do we get from Ms Hughes about this Dickensian state of affairs? …