Although in this day and age (and with the proliferation of children’s books) it is far from certain, I feel sure that many of us are conversant with ‘A Christmas Carol’. For those of us that aren’t, it is a wonderful Christmas themed tale, that has the plight of one little boy at its core. Tiny Tim is a sickly crippled child who has the great misfortune to be born to a humble office clerk, Bob Cratchett. Bob’s wages are so scant that he can barely afford Christmas and most definitely can’t afford the kind of medical care his son needs. Tiny Tim’s fate is therefore etched in stone is it not? But witness this conversation between Scrooge (keeper of the purse) and the ghost of Christmas Present,
“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”
“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Poor Tiny Tim! His fate has been so clearly delineated by Scrooge’s miserly, unstinting and privatization oriented, intractable mindset. There will be no future for Tiny Tim nor (in keeping with the tradition of such miserly inclinations down through the ages) future Tiny Tims!
And so to Kings Norton Green and the Kings Wood Respite Bungalows, which are under threat of closure. Kings Wood offers carers the ability to ensure that whilst their loved ones suffering from learning disabilities are being cared for, they themselves can take a break and so recharge their batteries. One of the carers regularly sending her loved one here is 91 years old, imagine that! So her breaks must be well and truly needed.
The story is that the bungalows are being under-used. But the reality is that new referrals are being blocked, in order to reduce use of the service, in time for its closure in March 2015. But never fear! Help was on the way in the form of staunch and principled Labourite, Steve McCabe, the MP of Birmingham Selly Oak who said: “The fact that 50% of carers are not receiving enough support either financially or emotionally is very concerning. In my constituency we have a great respite service which is highly valued by the people who use it but at the moment there is uncertainty surrounding the future of the service, what we now need is a guarantee from the Birmingham City Council that Kingswood Respite Service is here to stay. (B-14 News,June 16 2014)”.
Perhaps though, they would have been better off enlisting the help of Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts group. (SACAC) who, alongside many others, successfully opposed the closure of Charles House Respite Care Centre. Because at the end of the day, unlike principled politicians looking for an alternative to ‘slash & grab’ at the expense of the vulnerable & the poor, the Labour party seems determined to go right on administering nasty doses of austerity by the tablespoonful (should they win GE15). In the words of one eponymous politician, the equally staunch and suffering for it Diane Abbott,‘A few months ago (in good old 2014), commentators marvelled that Peter Mandelson turned up at a Balls fundraiser and was lavish in his praise. But Mandelson has not been suddenly won over by Balls’ charm. The key sentence in his speech was when he said that Balls was “a man willing to say no to his party and someone who will resist the short-term temptations that will bring us nothing in the long term”. In other words, Balls is the man to deliver the cuts that the Tories and New Labour grandees think are so essential’ Yes, the election of (new) Labour could mean continued closures of respite care centres, day centres and old people’s homes, that is if we choose to replace the raddle-faced visage of Conservative austerity, with the shiny new face of austerity-as-usual (new) Labour. Want this opinion to change? Then stop glossing over the cracks, tell us the truth about austerity and how much further you intend to cut into the flesh of the poor Mr Balls!