Friday, August 03, 2007

Bombay Slums

Watching a TV documentary with scenes of extreme poverty in a part of Bombay, set against an India which is surprisingly modern, western and affluent, caused me to reflect on how intractable such conditions are in a single nation, and how vain is the hope that we can make poverty history in the wider world.

Meanwhile, back in the Guardian, social worker Alison Napier explains why she doesn't have to bring the good name of her employers into disrepute, and why need should sometimes trump other considerations:

"I entered social work in 1993 with my eyes open, knowing full well that this is a solid, well-intentioned job rather than a radical one. We try to provide care to vulnerable people, within the constraints of a local authority budget. Straightforward enough thus far. So why have I become so deeply ashamed of my job and of my employer that I am considering leaving a field of work that I have enjoyed for so long?

"Mrs Stewart has a council home-help who comes in for half an hour, seven mornings a week. She is in her 80s, lives alone, and finds it hard to get dressed and washed in the mornings because of stiffness, angina and anxiety, so the carer helps her to have a shower and dress.

"Mrs Stewart rang me last week and left a message saying it was urgent that I phone her. I phoned. "They've said I can't have my home-help at the weekends any more. What will I do? I'll have to stay in bed." I listened. Then she said: "Oh I'll just cancel the whole lot. I'm a bother to everyone. I'll just cancel the lot and stay in bed."

"No don't do that," I replied. "See if the home-help will work privately for you. Then write to your local councillor and your MP."

"For 15 years, Mrs Stewart herself was a carer. She saved the council thousands and thousands of pounds by taking on caring responsibilities. Now she is the one who needs some care. But the UK, the fourth richest country in the world, has told her that her needs are too great - or too unimportant - to be met from the budget......If Britain cannot provide for the most vulnerable people, and we condone the constant shifting of the goalposts, such as the definition of "vulnerable", then we should all be deeply ashamed. I know I am. And if I look around at all the wealth in the UK and can still look someone straight in the eye and tell them that their care package is to be cut back due to lack of funds, then I have betrayed every single one of the principles and ideals that brought me into this job in the first place.

"There is a clause in my contract that states I must not bring the good name of my employers into "disrepute". My employers may consider that I am doing just that. To which I can only reply: "No. You are managing to do that all by yourselves."

No comments: