The Chancellor’s Budget did not include the provision for social care that our business manager Mike Beere would have wished it to. But he’s still glad that Jeremy Hunt visited our family members at Shottermill House, Haslemere
“Did you enter politics because God called you as a Christian, Mr Hunt?”
On Wednesday 15th March, Jeremy Hunt was standing outside 11 Downing Street brandishing a red box and smiling as the cameras flashed. Two days later, he was standing in our lounge at Shottermill House taking questions from our residents (or ‘family members’ as we call those who live with us) and holding up a special Budget Prayer Box, filled with prayers.
This visit by Mr Hunt to some of his oldest constituents in Surrey South West may only have been 45 minutes but, during his time with us, our family members had the chance to speak up. Questions ranged from why William Wilberforce (an early vice president of Pilgrims’ Friend Society) is one of Mr Hunt’s political heroes to whether there were many Christians in politics.
Of his Christian faith, Mr Hunt said, “I always think if you do have faith it’s like having a rock in your life. When you have a really difficult moment you’ve got something you can fall back on.” This prompted one of our family members, Loesje, to sing the chorus ‘On Christ this solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand’, with other voices chiming in.
This visit felt special for us. During the open question time at the front and then as Jeremy Hunt went round them one-by-one, our family members felt they were being listened to, acknowledged. As someone who gets to spend time with older people and works in the care sector, I personally am grateful to Mr Hunt for taking the time to come and see us.
I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed by the Budget announced by the Chancellor last week. There was no mention at all of social care. The Government has previously pledged £7.5 billion to social care over the next two years but concerns have been raised that this isn’t going to be nearly enough to address the pressures that face our sector, from the rising ageing population that means more people will need care to unprecedented levels of inflation.
During the visit, we had an opportunity to share with the Chancellor about the low level of funding from the Local Authority which doesn’t cover the real cost of somebody living in our care home. This needs serious attention.
Then there’s the acute shortage of staff – currently there are 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector, according to a report by Skills for Care. Mr Hunt may argue his newly announced measures for funding childcare and incentives for over-fifties to return to work will help with staffing issues. Whether this pans out in reality we’ll have to wait and see.
Still, I’m glad Mr Hunt came. For who better could there be to speak to the man with access to the purse strings than those who are directly affected? I believe that as Christians we too often run the risk of under-estimating the power and agency of brothers and sisters in their very final stages of life; older believers who have run a long race, who are on the very threshold of claiming the crown of glory, and yet who in their final furlong have much to relay in terms of guidance, influence and presence.
As I look around our home, I know that each person has their own unique contribution to make. I think of Hilary, a former teacher who is living with dementia who is such a blessing to fellow family members in the home. You can see her teacher’s heart reaching out to all around her. Or Derek, seriously ill but still able to bring the smile to the face of a child visiting from the local school as they connect over a game of chess. Or Christine, who can no longer see but listens faithfully to the Bible on Alexa every day, and blesses those around her with the words she’s been meditating on.
Ensuring our politicians have opportunities to meet with older people can only help to highlight that they are precious people, image-bearers of our Creator, with inherent value that means that their lives are worth investing in.
I hope that when Jeremy Hunt got home on Friday evening he opened up our alternative Budget Prayer Box and took the time to read the prayers that are being prayed by our family members for him. My big prayer is that through the prayers of these precious older people the Lord would act to ensure that all older people get the honour and care they deserve.
This article first appeared on the website of Premier Christianity magazine.
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