Carers Week – Carers Take Over Parliament

Note: This post is written by Claire Thwaite, Carer and volunteer at The Carers’ Resource in Skipton, where she helps to educate people about the importance of carers and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She offers others support and information that she did not have when she first became a carer. Claire attended the Carers Week Speednetworking Event in Parliament.

My journey to London started out in familiar way – a mad scramble to get both myself and my cared for washed,

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

dressed and ready to leave.

The result? I missed my intended train and fretted the rest of the way about missing my connection. As my cared for pointed out when I got irate “that’s exactly what you are going to London to talk about” – Doh!

Fortunately, I arrived in time and Emma (Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust), James (Trustee from Action for Carers, Surrey) and I fought our way through the crowds and queued up to pass through security at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.

Scanned, tagged and deemed no threat to security, we made our way into Westminster Hall with enough time for a brief tour. From that moment on I feared I would be struck dumb by the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful building – what triumph, tragedy and torment those walls could tell of.

Onward to the Jubilee Room and the initial hubbub began when the Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP entered the room and everyone vied to obtain a few precious seconds of his time and maybe get a picture.

On to the real aim of the day – MPs began filtering through and I started to feel a little nervous. Fortunately, my first conversation was with Robert Buckland MP who was extremely friendly. He showed a keen interest in hearing about my experience caring for my mentally ill partner and my views on how the government needed to do more to get help for carers from the outset.

My next conversation with Conservative MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage was equally positive – I shared my experience of the downfalls of the recent changes to benefits, which have left me faced with having to give up my own job to support my partner back into work.

The following tete-a-tete, with an MP who SHOULD remain nameless, was brief as he sat down declaring himself “unable to learn anything today as I have been here for 30 years”. So, I saved my breath for those who had a genuine interest – and there were many, most of whom had their own experiences of caring or mental illness.

Carers with MPs at the House of Parliament

Carers Speed-Networking with MPs at the House of Parliament

During a most interesting discussion with Barbara Keeley MP about a new Private Members Bill on social care that she is taking forward in a few weeks time, my local MP, Andrew Stephenson arrived. He was charming and shared some of his own thoughts about mental health and how Parliament is engaging with the issue.

After that, came Mark Durkam MP from Northern Ireland, with whom James and I discussed again the lack of initial support available to carers and also employment law and issues with employers understanding carers. After he bade us farewell, we realised it was 6.15 and the event had finished 15 minutes ago.

The journey home was uneventful by comparison. My only regret? It didn’t go on long enough ……. Oh, and I should have worn more comfortable shoes.


June 21, 2012 - Posted by | Health, Hidden carers | ,


  1. Well done….

    But is anything going to change as a result?

    Comment by Geoff | June 21, 2012 | Reply

    • If all Carers write/e-mail their own MP’s about the real world of Carers, then yes.

      Comment by v.poel | July 5, 2012 | Reply

  2. It is a worrying time for us all but I feel that you should name and shame the MP who couldn’t be bothered to listen to you. One day he may be in the same position as a carer or the cared for.

    Comment by Sue | June 21, 2012 | Reply

  3. I agree, name and (hopefully) shame the MP whose 30 years in a very well-paid job has obviously served to separate him from real life problems.

    Comment by Stephen Hayes-Light | July 5, 2012 | Reply

  4. Correct SUE the MP you couldnt be bothered to listen – NAME HIM or HER

    Comment by IVOR ALLISON | July 5, 2012 | Reply

    • I totally agree. If this person is not named it just gives him license to sit there for more years not willing to listen and his constituents should know what type of person represents them.

      Comment by Lynda Jackson | July 7, 2012 | Reply

  5. name and shame the person who couldn’t be bothered wonder if they would feel happy to be on call 24/7 forever at the equivalent of 32 pence an hour and have the trauma of seeing the person they care for worried (literally in some cases) to death by the likes of Atos?

    Comment by Lori Homayon-jones | July 9, 2012 | Reply

  6. Thanks for all your comments. Sadly, I offered that MP the same amount of courtesy that he showed me and failed to note his name. As much as I would love to name and shame him, I am unable. I’m a big believer in Karma however, so maybe he’d better watch out!

    Comment by Claire Thwaite | July 12, 2012 | Reply

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