Good social care should be a lifeline, not a lifetime of debt
I joined the Labour Party in 2003. I joined a political party because I believe in people, in social justice, in equality and human rights and I want change and I believe that nothing is more powerful than collective action.
I joined the Labour Party because they believed in the same things.
As a disabled person, I have fought for everything I have, but I am lucky; I am an empowered disabled person who had family, friends, community and a politics that were on my side growing up.
I have stuck my shoulder to the wheel on many issues, but the one thing that has kept me up at night writing papers, articles, planning a revolution, is the Care Tax.
I was 23 when I got my first job. Fresh out of uni and eager to put my learning to use, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered my dream job. But I nearly didn’t take it. So why didn’t I jump in feet first? After tax (yes after) I was to pay £750 per month of my wages, just to get out of bed in the morning.
Without social care, I cannot sit up, go to the toilet, eat, put on my make-up, see friends, visit family, work – the list goes on. Good social care is my lifeline, my lifeline to a life worth living. It didn’t take me long to believe it was unfair to tax me for it.
But like I said, I’m a lucky one. 14,000 people across Scotland are in arrears for their care tax. Some even go to loan sharks to pay it. I am a lucky one. I took the job and paid my dues.
I can remember the moment I decided to take it, I was on a train, with my best friend Sean and he said, “take it you fool, take it and we’ll fight the rule that makes you pay to get up in the morning together”. And so I did, and we’ve never stopped fighting.
I have fought with every breath in my body for this unfair tax to be abolished. How can it be right in 21st century Scotland that people need to pay up to 100% of their income (including from benefits) just to get out of bed?
How can it be right that the amount people are charged for social care has risen by 23% in the last 3 years when most people who use social care live in poverty? How is it fair?
In successful ageing societies, like ours, social care is essential, not just for those like me who need it, but for all of us. Every one of us, at some point in our lives will be touched by the social care system. It could be you, your granda, or your neighbour, but odds are you will get care yourself, or you will be close to someone who does. And the chance are you will give care, either as an unpaid carer or as a paid Personal Assistant.
It is often said that the way we treat the people in our society who need support, is a measure of a good society. If charging people who need care – people who, as a result of their needing care, provide jobs, or indeed go out to work themselves because they have support and so they can work – is how we measure up, then we’re not doing that well.
I believe that in Scotland, we care about each other, but I don’t pretend that that makes this issue easy to solve. In all my years campaigning to end the care tax, I’ve learned that. It needs the willingness to stand up to vested interests and say, yes, we might need to move money around, or even raise some, to sort this. It needs the insight to see that getting this right is the next step along the way to a fair and equal society for those who need it. And it needs bravery, bravery to put your head above the parapet and say yes, the change we want and need is social justice, and this issue is at the heart of it, I will be part of that change.
I couldn’t be prouder to be Labour than I am today. I have longed for the moment when the thousands of care users across Scotland living in fear on where their next care tax payment will come from, will have their day. That’s why I’m backing Ken to lead our party in Scotland.
Ken was willing to listen, with an open mind. He had the insight – and foresight – to see that this change is fundamental to the progression of human rights. And he is brave enough to mount the challenge, for all of us fighting for a better world and our equal place in it.