Somewhat ironically, the word Celebration appeared in all the publicity to attract the attention of carers living in Rhondda Cynon Taff to Carers Rights Day.
It read 'Carers Rights Day Celebration Friday 2nd December 2011'
The agenda for the day was what you would expect. Tea, coffee and biscuits, an update on the progress of the Carers Strategy which appears to be going well, then some consultation from the department that buys in services.. they got a rough ride.
A break for tea, coffee and more biscuits followed by the big issue.. the Welfare Right Presentation, well I don't have to go into detail here, we all know what is being planned by this current disgraceful government, well I thought we all knew, but surprisingly there were some who did not know how welfare reform Tory style is going to effect them. Wales is historically 'left-wing' (a term which I notice our 'leader' is trying to turn into an insult!) full of tight communities all looking out for one another, with very long memories. Margaret Thatcher and the Thames Valley police remain high on the unforgiven list. But even in the most left-wing of communities there are those who are not politicised and go along with whatever the gutter press wants to peddle as truth. Of the 70 or more people that were in the room today which included council and social services staff as well as carers, my guess would be that half of them would happily say they were left-wing, I noticed that the four sitting councillors, three retired councillors, one AM and one MP that that were among us were all Labour. There was also a small group who always have something to say about welfare and benefits and who gets them and who shouldn't get them and usually quote the Daily Mail as the source of their extensive knowledge.
I was a little surprised when part way through the presentation of the realities of what was about to happen to our Welfare State, I noticed a couple from that group, probably in their 50's looking at each other with undisguised shock on their faces. She told me later over lunch that she had not considered herself subject to any of the changes which are soon to happen and was finding the reality of their situation truly frightening. Suddenly this nice couple with nice middle class sensibilities, who have worked hard all their lives until a disability meant they had to rearrange their lives and make use of the welfare state they had been complaining about paying into for so long, are going to be subject to the same disregard as the 'ne'er do wells' they assumed the cuts were being aimed at. We didn't hear much from that group after the Welfare Rights presentation, several of them were visibly shocked by what they had heard which has left me wondering how many more people are there out there with no idea of what is going to happen come next April if we don't all jump up and down and make a stink about the nonsense which this arrogant and ignorant government is hell bent on perusing.
So, I hope that 'Celebrations' of Carers Rights Day were held everywhere today and were as well attended as the one I was at in the splendid Rhondda Heritage Park Hotel in Trehafod. It is all to easy to become complacent and think that swingeing cuts in benefits will somehow not affect you, but they will and lives will be lost. As we went through the changes and implications facing us a fellow carer I was sitting with was close to tears at the prospect of having to allow his wife to undergo reassessments and the possible loss of much needed benefits by failing to score enough points on a somewhat skewed points system aimed at proving eligibility for work. Yes, times are hard, but penalising the poorest and weakest is not a civilized way of dealing with financial problems created by the richest and strongest.