Insights from today’s conference

Last changed: Friday 4 September, 2015

Well, I just thought I’d use the lunch break to share a few of the  stand-out moments from this morning.

It was an absolute privilege to hear from three superb plenary speakers.

Firstly, Queen Silvia of Sweden (pictured left)  who talked about her own connection to caring – her mother had dementia – and some of the wonderful homes, training and the international forum she has founded, for which she remains patron and an active member and supporter.

Secondly, the Swedish Minister for Children, Older People and Gender Equality who talked about a number of interesting and very topical issues, including the refugees moving across Europe desperately seeking help. I think it was just the last month’s figures she quoted when she told us more than 700 lone children arrived in Sweden.

She also touched on the major impact of caring on women as the major providers of care, and the effect it had on certain aspects, such as taxation in Sweden where this is calculated on an individual basis relative to work done. There are incentives offered for people to work but no allowance made for those who cannot due to caring responsibilities.

Baroness Jill Pitkeathely, described in her introduction as the Mother of the carers movement, actually suggested herself that she is maybe more like the Grandmother – or even Great Grandmother!
But whatever she is, she certainly did a fantastic job of describing the development of the carer movement. This included how the first three acts introduced in England came about through our system of private members bills and, while they were not as revolutionary or as far-reaching as people initially would have liked, she explained how the movement needed to be more ‘reasonable than rabid!’ in order to get things started and to form the basis upon which to build.

Our first seminar session had the added and unexpected pleasure of being joined again by Queen Silvia who thoroughly enjoyed and engaged with the group. She even stepped up to ask a question about immigration and the difficulties this is causing with the increase in dementia and when patients often revert to their natural languages, and how service provision can be achieved for these groups.
An audience member from Australia suggested this was an enormous challenge for their country, also given the breadth of nationalities living there, and she stressed that the importance of family carers becomes even stronger in this situation.

Jen Kenward, Head of Patient Experience at NHS England, gave a great overview of the NHS commitment to carers and agreed totally with a question from Mary Larkin in the audience that care-giving may need to be seen more in the sense of a ‘life course’ rather than a one-off role now that so many people care more than once in their lifetime.

Fascinating insights into Carers Week in England and Ireland showed the huge success the week offers in terms of awareness and engagement from the media and employers.

Right, I’ve got to dash off. Next seminar session starting now. I’ll check in later.