ONE of Scotland’s leading artists has spoken about the difficulties of being a family carer and called on the Scottish Government to do more to help.
John Lowrie Morrison, known as Jolomo, said he and his wife Maureen cared for his brother and both their mothers over the years.
The artist, who is holding an exhibition to raise funds for the Carers Trust, said he had struggled to make ends meet after caring for members of his family in need.
He said unpaid family carers saved the Scottish Government millions of pounds in public spending, and called on ministers to set up an agency to help families fund respite care.
Jolomo said he and his wife first became carers for his brother Murdo in 1980 after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
“It is something you do as a family without thinking about but we never had any respite,” he said. “It’s hard, it’s life, you just get on with it. You are using a lot of emotional energy too, worrying and caring for someone.”
Murdo, who also had severe learning difficulties, died in 2009 aged 68, but before that Jolomo’s mother-in-law Catherine also needed care.
Mr Morrison’s own mother, Bessie, who had her own home in the village in Tayvallich, Lochgilphead in Argyll, where the Morrisons live, also needed support when she developed severe dementia.
“She used to walk over to my studio four or six times a day and sit behind me when I was painting,” he said. “In a way it was quite funny because she’d point with her stick and tell me I’d got something wrong. But I had to keep taking her back home and it could be a fair bit of stress.”
‘Saving government millions’
Although now a best-selling artist with customers including Madonna and Sting, Jolomo said for much of the time he and his wife were unpaid family carers, he was an art teacher, she worked as a nurse and they were also bringing up their three sons.
“The last ten or 12 years have been different financially but before that when I was working as an art teacher there were times we found it difficult to make ends meet,” he said. “You love your family and you do it not expecting anything.
“But while the Carers Trust makes it clear you can get some respite, it shouldn’t just be charitable. The Scottish Government should be coming up with more money for carers. There should be a government agency specifically set up for this to make sure family carers get a break and some help. These people are saving the government millions if not billions of pounds.
“The whole subject is a minefield and it affects, or will affect nearly all of us, perhaps it might be a brother or a sister, or other relative.”
Jolomo is holding an exhibition of new paintings of Mull and Iona in Edinburgh over the next two weekends, donating 20 per cent of proceeds to the Carers Trust charity of which he and his wife are vice presidents.
Latest figures from Carers Trust Scotland show there are about 650,000 unpaid family carers north of the border including approximately 100,000 young carers aged five-16 years.
Florence Burke, director of Carers Trust Scotland, said one in ten people would become carers and could experience poverty, isolation, frustration and physical and mental ill health.
“We will continue to put pressure on the Scottish Government to maintain and improve carer’s rights and ensure that quality support services are maintained.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are determined to continue to take forward a range of measures to provide Scotland’s carers and young carers with the support they truly deserve. By bringing forward legislation to support carers and young carers, we are quite clear that we want to quicken the pace of reform to see much better support for carers on a more consistent basis.
“We will be launching the consultation on this legislation at the end of this year.”
• Jolomo Isle of Mull, Isle of Iona (An t - Eilean Idhe), Bank of Scotland headquarters, the Mound, Edinburgh, 23-24 November and 30 November-1 December 2013, Sats 11am-4pm, Suns 12-4pm.