The Chancellor’s budget did not include the provision for social care that Mike Beere would have wished it to. But he’s still glad that Jeremy Hunt visited the older residents of his care home, shared his faith and listened to their needs. They have experience we can all learn from
“Did you enter politics because God called you as a Christian, Mr Hunt?”
Last Wednesday lunchtime, Jeremy Hunt was standing outside 11 Downing Street brandishing a red box and smiling as the cameras flashed. Two days later, he was standing in our lounge at Shottermill House taking questions from our residents (or ‘family members’ as we call those who live with us) and holding up a special Budget Prayer Box, filled with prayers.
This visit by Mr Hunt to some of his oldest constituents in Surrey South West may only have been 45 minutes but, during his time with us, our family members had the chance to speak up. Questions ranged from why William Wilberforce (an early vice president of Pilgrims’ Friend Society) is one of Mr Hunt’s political heroes to whether there were many Christians in politics.
Of his Christian faith, Mr Hunt said: “I always think if you do have faith, it’s like having a rock in your life. When you have a really difficult moment you’ve got something you can fall back on.” This prompted one of our family members, Loesje, to sing the chorus: “On Christ this solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”, with other voices chiming in.
I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed by the Budget announced by the Chancellor last week, in which there was no mention at all of social care. The Government has previously pledged £7.5 billion to the sector over the next two years, but concerns have been raised that this isn’t going to be nearly enough to address existing pressures - from our ageing population to unprecedented levels of inflation.
Older people are precious image-bearers of our Creator, with inherent value
During the visit, we had an opportunity to highlight the low level of funding that we receive from our local authority, which doesn’t cover the real cost of somebody living in our care home and which needs serious attention.
Then there’s the acute shortage of staff. According to a recent report, there are 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector. Mr Hunt may argue that funding increases for childcare and incentives for over-50s to return to work will help with staffing issues, but whether this pans out in reality we’ll have to wait and see.
Precious in his sight
Still, I’m glad Mr Hunt came. As he spoke to our family members one-by-one, they felt they were being listened to and acknowledged. Hunt is the man with access to the purse strings, so who better to raise the current issues with him than those who are directly affected?
As Christians we, too, often run the risk of underestimating the power and agency of our brothers and sisters who are in their very final stages of life; older believers who have run a long race, who are on the very threshold of claiming the crown of glory and yet who, in their final furlong, have much to relay in terms of guidance, influence and presence.
As I look around our home, I know that each person has their own unique contribution to make.
Hilary is a former teacher who is living with dementia. She is such a blessing to fellow family members in the home. You can see her teacher’s heart reaching out to all around her.
Derek is seriously ill, but still able to bring the smile to the face of a child visiting from the local school as they connect over a game of chess.
Christine can no longer see, but listens faithfully to the Bible on Alexa every day, and blesses those around her with the words she has been meditating on.
We often underestimate the agency of our brothers and sisters in their final stages of life
Ensuring our politicians have opportunities to meet with older people can only help to highlight that they are precious people, image-bearers of our Creator, with inherent value that means their lives are worth investing in.
I hope that when Jeremy Hunt got home on Friday evening, he opened up our alternative Budget Prayer Box and took the time to read the prayers that are being prayed by our family members for him.
My big prayer is that, through the prayers of these precious older people, the Lord would act to ensure that all older people get the honour and care they deserve.