We have come to see care as a professional provision rather than a natural act that flows out of our humanity. Caring is a human emotional response to the needs of others and it makes us feel better when we do it. One thing that we have seen very clearly in this current crisis is how much people have cared for each other. That natural desire we all have to look out for our neighbours has come out very clearly. We have spontaneously acted in caring communities.
Community is something that sounds old fashion and twee, but it is the heart of who we are as human beings. Society today has fractured; we have isolated ourselves into cliques and solitary units. Yet it is this resulting separation that causes a lack of community and a lack of mutual support. People are left alone and in need, so that help has to be bought in even for the simple things like company and shopping.
We are at a time when the care bill in this country is crippling to our economy. Yet much of that care is not nursing or professional level care. Instead, there is a tremendous amount of sitting service, monitoring, checking on the elderly and infirm, shopping for those who are unable to do so themselves. Is it just me or are these things really only the purview of professional care services? When did our society become so fractured that neighbours no longer notice if someone is in need? When did we stop helping each other? When did asking a neighbour if they need anything stop being acceptable?
I am not suggesting that neighbours supply a nursing level of care, nor that they offer a washing and dressing service. That would certainly bring a new meaning to getting to know the neighbours. Instead, I am suggesting a return to that sense of community that we have lost. But which we obviously still desire. Look at the spontaneous voluntary groups that have sprung up around the country during this crisis. Look at the way people have helped and supported each other and found fulfilment in that opportunity. There is a very clear desire to help. A sense of community is obviously still there.
In the recent Habinteg Essay writing competition I put forward a plan for accessible housing into the next 50 years. I suggested that we need to focus on re-building community in our future housing projects. But we can also build community in our existing housing. Community is built by our attitude as well as the surroundings we live in. It can be improved by better layout and provision of housing and community venues, but it can also be realised through the way we look to the needs of others.
I would like to suggest that we continue in the way we have started. Where voluntary groups have formed to support neighbours during the crisis; keep them going in a new form. Where we have started to look to and communicate with our neighbours rather than focus inward; keep that outward focus. Care is not just a professional job supplied to those in need; care is for all and we can all care for others. I am not suggesting that we replace true professional care needs; just the everyday helps that we always used to offer to friends and neighbours.
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