Scotland’s 600,000 unpaid carers make a huge contribution to our society. Newly elected SNP MSP Mark MacDonald spent the day with one carer in Aberdeenshire to find out more about her day to day life and how the SNP’s plans would help carers.
Here he writes about his experiences:
"One of the key interests I have in politics is carers and caring and how society recognises and supports those who care. It stems from the experiences of my mother, who cares for my grandmother –a dementia sufferer - and the issues she has faced during the time that she has cared for her.
I am immensely proud that the SNP is committed to giving the support and recognition to carers that their devotion deserves whether through increasing provision of respite, to the proposal to establish a Carers Parliament, to improving the way employers and public services interact with carers, but I am also aware that it is what happens on the ground that really matters.
Last Friday, I spent the day shadowing a parent carer in Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Stephanie Chalmers, and her husband Martin, care for their ten-year-old son, Connor, who has cerebral palsy, and thus requires 24/7 care.
The visit was facilitated by Lucy Whiteman of VSA Aberdeenshire and Lynn Williams of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers.
The day with Stephanie and Connor was extremely interesting, I observed some of their daily routine, and helped out on occasion with Connor’s wheelchair, getting him into the car, and feeding him some of his lunch.
Stephanie and I spoke about some of the particular issues that she faces. One key issue was the lack of leisure opportunities for disabled children in communities like Turriff, and across Aberdeenshire. For example, there are no designated sessions for disabled children at Connor’s local swimming pool, an issue I will now be taking up with the local council to see what opportunities can be provided.
It was also brought home to me that very often carers have to actively seek out support networks and find the relevant people to contact, rather than being assisted by the NHS or local authority to do so. Again this is something that needs to be improved so that people who need the support and camaraderie that sharing experiences provides can make contact with other carers in the local area.
Shadowing Stephanie helped me gain a deeper, more personal insight into the day-to-day lives of carers in Scotland. While I had some experience of the pressures faced by carers of elderly relatives through my mother’s experiences, I wanted to see what the direct challenges facing parent carers were, and to get a better idea of how I could help via my role as an MSP, and as a member of the Cross-Party Group on Carers.
I think it is always beneficial to politicians to try and experience first-hand the issues which impact on people in our communities, and by shadowing Stephanie and Connor for the day I have been able to see and hear the issues which affect their lives, and I will be better informed in the future as I work with my fellow SNP MSPs to ensure that carers in Scotland receive the support they deserve."