They want to get rid of migrant carers, but the Queen of Scotland says no - Gaby Soutar

​There is currently a shortfall of 165,000 carers, thanks in part to Brexit, and Conservative backbenchers want to close the temporary visa scheme for the care sector

Every morning, my mum is greeted by, “Hellooooo, Susie!”.

Usually, I’m on the phone to her when the carer arrives, and I’ll hear his chirpy greeting.

He brings her breakfast, which might be toast with Marmite, or Grape-Nuts – for she is the only remaining person on the planet who still buys that cereal – then doles out her medication and makes sure she’s wearing the fall alarm.

She’s an easy client, and doesn’t require much else.

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Maybe he – or another carer, one of whom is from Nigeria and calls her the Queen of Scotland – will help her wash her hair, if she’s in the mood.

They’ll do the dishes, take the bins out or water her plants. The stuff that’s difficult when you’re 87 and have limited mobility. We appreciate their initiative, because she’s almost entirely selfless and never asks for what she needs.

Then they’ll fill out the usual form, which details what Susie was up to, and head to their next appointment.

They can have up to eight people a day to see, and a couple of the carers don’t drive, so have to navigate their patients, who are spread across the city, by bus. I wonder how they afford that outlay, while in such a meagrely paid profession.

Although mum enjoys seeing them, she doesn’t feel she actually needs them.

She’s pretty independent. However, her neurotic daughters, who know she can be laissez-faire when it comes to taking her daily pills, are very grateful.

My dad would have organised her medication, but he’s gone, and she lives alone now. Since he died, she’s fallen a couple of times, and been left lying on the floor for hours. That makes her sound like a vulnerable fledgling, but she’s way tougher than that. Still, we don’t want it to happen again.

I’m comforted by her regular flying visits – one in the morning, and another before dinner – thanks to the free personal care for the elderly we have in Scotland.

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For those who are housebound, like mum, carers can help people maintain independence, but also offer a regular social connection.

My husband’s late mum relied on this form of support.

She was in a small village, and an additional benefit to visits from her daily helpers was their excellent gossiping skills. They kept her connected to the rest of the community while she was stuck in the house.

The same goes for my mum, back when she lived in the country.

I did once take her care for granted, until she fell off the list a couple of times.

She’s been in hospital a few times over the years and there was never a problem when it came to still having help when she got home.

Until a year ago. She was kept in for weeks waiting for discharge while the hospital tried (and failed) to reinstate her care. As she’s very keen on their food, especially the stovies and macaroni cheese, we thought she might be able to stick her confinement out.

In the end, it was somebody’s loud midnight delirium in the next bed and the thought of missing Wimbledon that were the final straws. She packed her slippers and demanded to go home, much to our chagrin.

When she got back, we’d be constantly phoning, to check or nag in equal measure.

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There’s been another gap recently, after moving house and, thus, local authority. It took a few months of waiting for a carer, and then, suddenly, we had about five on rotation.

She already has her favourite. He’s the one who is offered all the After Eights.

They’re all men, which I initially didn’t think my mum would be too keen about, but I was only projecting my own feelings of embarrassment at the thought of them seeing me in my winceyette dressing gown in the early hours. She doesn’t care.

Anyway, they are here. Her daughters can stop their constant pestering.

We can’t help it, as we’ve had first-hand experience of the fragile system.

It must be so much worse for those who need more serious support.

According to the Skills for Care charity, there is currently a shortfall of 165,000 carers – the highest it’s ever been, thanks in part to Brexit – in the UK.

This week also saw backbenchers, the New Conservatives, issue plans to close the temporary visa schemes for the care sector, in order to cut migrant numbers.

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Essentially, that’s a few of my mum’s current batch of carers. They're some of the thousands who have come over to help plug the social care gap.

I wonder who exactly they think will do their job, if they go?

I suppose it’s just another game of human Jenga. Just pull a few out, and see what happens. No need for contingency. In our case, it might be okay. Perhaps not for others, who are less self-sufficient in their old age, are in a home, or need help for other reasons.

Anyway, the vacuum would only be yet more strain on our beloved NHS, as we celebrate its 75th birthday.

The elderly and unwell, who will be stuck in hospital without care, will be labelled bed blockers, and so the endless cycle of blame continues.

So, no, I’m afraid we’re not going to be letting go of our current carers quite so easily.

The Queen of Scotland is keeping them.



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