Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Laura Calls for Carers to be placed at the Heart of the Review on Care for the Elderly in her maiden speech

Laura’s Maiden Speech focused on South Thanet and the Importance of Carers at the beginning of Carers Week

Laura Calls for Carers to be placed at the Heart of the Review on Care for the Elderly

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to contribute to this debate and to make my maiden speech.
My priority in the House, for as long as the people of South Thanet so choose, is to serve them and to ensure that the House and this Government support their needs and address their concerns.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Dr Ladyman. He was an exceptionally committed Member of Parliament for South Thanet for 13 years, and held two distinguished posts in Transport and Health. On a personal note, he was extremely courteous and generous throughout our four-year campaigning trail together. I wish him great good luck in his new job as chief executive of a retirement home company. I know that in that role he will show the same commitment with which he served the people of South Thanet.

I live in and represent one of the best-kept secrets in the country-a series of towns and villages that demonstrate what is best about this country. I know how beautiful, how surprising and how unique each of the towns is that I represent, but over the last four years it has been particularly rewarding to see the number of supporters who came to South Thanet-some of them are here tonight-and who gasped with excitement when they saw the beauty of Ramsgate harbour, who saw that Broadstairs is one of the most perfect seaside towns, and who were staggered by Sandwich, which is considered nationally the most perfect medieval town. Even in Cliftonville, the poorest ward in the south-east, people recognised its architecture and its potential.

South Thanet has a particular relationship with the House. I live about a quarter of a mile from where Pugin built a church and his house. Ramsgate has many of the same architectural icons as the House, so there is a part of this place in South Thanet and a part of South Thanet here.

It is not just the place itself. The people of east Kent and South Thanet have attitude. We are independent. We have stood up against many wars and we have been on the front line against many invasions. I was privileged to be at the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk little ships. Many people from my area, whether fishermen or small boat owners, went in their boats to save 300,000 of our soldiers who were on the beaches of Dunkirk. I am proud to represent such courageous and independent people in the House.

We have come into government at one of the most difficult times for many generations and what we achieve in the next five years will define our future for the next generation. I am sure that none of us on the Government Benches are under the illusion that we will not have to do things that will make us unpopular. What we must be judged on is whether we are being fair and whether we are rewarding those who take responsibility.

It is on fairness and responsibility that I want to contribute to the debate. This week is the start of carers week. In South Thanet, we have one of the largest numbers of carers in the country. Coastal towns have a high percentage of carers. Young, old, frail, healthy-carers are selfless family members whose lives become dominated by the responsibilities they voluntarily take on. Being a carer is not subject to any working time directive; carers are full-time, on call 24 hours. Their lives are dominated by the needs of others. When helping those with chronic illnesses, they often forfeit their own life, and certainly their livelihood. Having watched my mother look after my father for five years before he died, I have seen at first hand the toll that can be taken on the carer.
We need to ensure that we put carers at the heart of our review of care for the elderly. It is crucial that we look at the role they play. In many ways, they will be one of the front lines in public services in the future. I urge the Government to ensure that we support those who support their loved ones. We need to look again at providing respite for carers. We need to review the cut-off of carer's allowance when people reach pensionable age-just when they need it most-and we need to place the carer's role at the heart of our review of care for the elderly.

When we leave the House-not for many years, we hope-we might all need carers, or we might all need to care for others. I would prefer that to be done by a loving relative-someone who will be there for me in my time of need-and I am certain that many other Members would, too. As the Prime Minister says, we need to reward those who take responsibility, and never can that be better said than about 6 million carers who give up their lives and selflessly give their time to their loved ones.

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