We Airbrushed Those In Care Homes Out Of Our Minds Before This Crisis.

‘Out of site. Out of mind.’

That’s the approach we have taken to those in care homes for as long as I can remember.

Hidden from view, the only conversations about nursing care which ever entered the public consciousness, were about the costs and never seem to result in any policy changes.

The budget which took place on 11th March, like so many previous budgets, failed to mention social care.

Older people in care homes suffer from it being part of our culture that, unlike many others, we don’t like talking about death. We hide it away from view and try to pretend it won’t get us.  Aging is not something we want to know about. We approach it largely with dread.

For younger people in care homes – because of disability or other circumstance the same invisibility applies. It’s not something most of us know much about or want to.

Maybe it’s this same culture which has facilitated the situation we now find ourselves in where those in care homes – both residents and staff are being treated so badly now.

Those in care homes are particularly affected by the covid crisis. For reasons entirely understandable and sensible care homes have not allowed visitors since before the lockdown was implemented. 

Most concerning is the lack of transparency and clarity about the scale of the spread of the disease amongst those living in care homes 

Deaths in care homes are not counted in the figures reported to us daily.  Instead they are produced on a lag a week behind and only count those who have ‘corona’ recorded as the cause of death on their death certificate.  The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics , which include every community death linked to covid 19 showed a total of 406 such deaths registered up to 3 April. That would have added an extra 11% to the official UK figures, based solely on deaths in hospitals, that were being reported at that time.  Of those extra deaths, 217 took place in care homes, 33 in hospices, 136 in private homes, three in other communal establishments and 17 elsewhere.

Charity Age UK responded by saying coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for elderly people. Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said.

“The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter.”

It is surely a source of national shame that any of our citizens can be forgotten like this – with their deaths treated as an add on to the rest – not meriting attention or enquiry.

It might be easy to assume those in care homes were close to death anyway, as if this somehow negates the severity of the situation for them. But many of them will have had years ahead of them were it not for the virus.

Then there is the appalling situation concerning PPE (personal protective equipment). We are over a month into this crisis, and we knew for a few months before that it was coming. There can be no justification as to why staff working in care homes are still without protective equipment whilst they perform intimate care tasks with no means of knowing how may have contracted the virus. of the 1.5 million people working in care homes only 505 have been tested for corona.

As Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said “Once you run out, it is a question of being down to Marigolds and bin liners. Government has not reacted quickly enough to build confidence in the sector that PPE is available.”

In a further act of negligence the Government had removed VAT on essential PPE kit for the NHS but claimed it had not done the same for the social care sector. 

Then there is the treatment of staff in care homes. Caring is a very difficult job – physically and mentally. Yet most people working in care homes earn just the national minimum wage. This, surely, is indicative of how little regard we, as a society hold the care of our much vulnerable citizens.

Today Matt Hancock has said he wants to introduce a single brand for social care to ensure that carers get the same sort of priority treatment that NHS staff do in some settings. Care workers will be given a badge to identify them.

Does he not think most care workers would prefer an end to their poverty wages and terrible conditions (half of workers in the care sector are on zero hours contracts)?

When this is all over I sincerely hope many things are viewed differently. The invisibility of those in care homes and the lack of respect for those who work within them must end.

My Lockdown Baby

By Rosie Wells

I was asked today to write down my experiences of having a ‘corona baby’ – a baby born in the middle of the lockdown period. l’ll start at the beginning. 

My partner and I were over the moon when I fell pregnant. With two children already with my previous partner this new baby was going to be the final piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately my pregnancy was not straight forward and I was hit with extreme morning sickness which left me pretty much unable to do anything. The medicine got it under control to an extent in the third trimester and I kept on telling myself and the kids ‘this is temporary- things will get back to normal once the baby is here’. I then got hit with a virus towards the end of my pregnancy and for 8 weeks was passing out and unable to walk or do anything but again we thought as soon as this baby is here things will get back to normal.

I promised the kids trips to the beach and that I would pick them up from school with the baby in the pram, something I was unable to do with the sickness during pregnancy. The thing getting me through was the thought of maternity leave and time with my friends and family away from the stress of work. I am lucky that I have a very strong family network and also lucky that 3 of my friends were pregnant at the same time so we made our plans for baby dates and groups and coffee (wine) mornings round each others houses.

Due to the problems with the pregnancy and the fact the baby was measuring larger than average with increased amniotic fluids I was booked in for an early induction at 39 weeks. As with all my labour’s my mum was planning on being there with me and along my partner. However a week before I was due to be induced I was forwarded a screenshot from my friend staying that they would only allow one birth partner in the labour ward. To say I was devastated would be an understatment. I think I probably cried for 3 days and so did my mum. My birth plan was being completly ruined. I know it was selfish. I knew people were sick although I don’t think I knew the extent of the virus and the harm it would cause then. However, my sister reminded me of some of the positives of it just being myself and my partner in the room. My mum had never had a phone call to say her grandchild had arrived and she was going to be able to experience that now. It meant my children would be with my mum when I was in labour so I would be happier they were somewhere safe and myself and my partner would have a special moment with just the two of us. So although I would have been happier my mum being there I took the positives.

There were rumours the schools would shut but we all thought these were just rumours and they would be at least open until the Easter holidays so I was confident I would still be able to meet the children at the school with their new baby in the pram. 


Even after discovering the schools would be shut and the social distancing measures put in place I still thought all, would be OK as my mum would still be allowed round and I would still be able to see friends at each others houses and we could all help, home school the kids . We had it all planned.


The day before I went into Darenth Valley Hospital to be induced lockdown was announced. Things started to feel a bit more real and I was suddenly terrified. All anyone was talking about was coronovirus. We went into the hospital and it was deadly quiet and very eerie. A security guard met us on the door and we had to show proof we were due to go into the labour ward. However once we got into maternity it was a very different story. It was calm and quiet but a happy and safe atmosphere. We were provided with a pass which meant that we could move out of the ward to go to the shops or leave the hospital – although this is discouraged. There wasn’t a constant bombardment of visitors in and out and everyone was just relaxed with thier one birth partner (well as relaxed as women in esrly labour can be) . There was an element of unease about everything as it was all, so new and the midwifes were doing every thing they could to reasurre us all. Guidelines were changing by the hour but they kept us well informed. After labour and discovering our new baby was a boy it was even nicer to not be allowed visitors in the ward. Yes I was a bit sad the kids couldn’t meet their new baby brother at the hospital but I couldn’t wait to get home and introduce them to Rex in the comfort of their own home. The after birth experience was by far the best of all 3 of my children. Everyone seemed more relaxed. I’ve always thought how unsettling it must be for new mums who didn’t have any one to visit them to suddenly have a whole family and kids in the bed next to them Ccoing over the new baby while they say alone. After we are out of the worst of this I wouldn’t be surprised if the visiting rules were kept. I could relax and get to know my new baby in a quiet ward and it was lovely. I made all my phone calls and let everyone know we had a new son. The midwifes said they preferred it without visitors as they could focus on the new mum and baby.

The part I found scary was when they discharged us. Everything was different and the midwifes were still unsure on what would be happening. I was told a midwife may visit or she may phone. They were unsure whether I could register my baby officially and basically just said things may change. So I left with an open mind that we may be on our own once we got home. 
I got home and was lucky enough that social distancing measures were in place but we weren’t in lockdown. It was a sad day as schools had closed and everyone seemed a bit lost. But Rex entering our home made everything seem OK again. The children were so excited to meet him and I’m very lucky that my mum got to meet him in real life.

Everyone was planning when they would come over and we had lots of dates on the diary to introduce Rex to his new family and friends. The next day the midwife visited and she helped keep my spirits up. But then came the speech from The Prime Minister when we were told lockdown measures would be put in place. This probably couldn’t have come at a worse time – day 3 when baby blues kick in. From that day on it seemed that Rex was forgotton and so was I. In a house so full up of kids and my partner I had never felt so lonely and lost. I had a new baby and I was now told I couldnt see anyone or leave the house. All those visits I had planned cancelled. No walking my pram though the streets with my baby. Everyone had their own worries and their own stresses going on and no one had time to admire my baby. And yes that’s selfish but this was going to be my last baby my last chance for this and I felt it was being stolen from me. I wanted to scream to people to stop talking about coronovirus and talk about my baby instead and ask how he slept or how I was doing but nobody did. However I decided social media is a great way to show off Rex. As someone who doesn’t overshare on facebook I found I felt much better after posting a picture of Rex and it getting lots of comments and likes and I felt that was my communication with the world. 


The midwife finished her visits but there was a marked visit from visit one where she entered the house in ordinary clothing and the final visit where she was wearing masks, gloves and aprons and then everything felt more real. However scary it was, it still the same midwife who we laughed with on the first day and she was as happy and kind as when we first met her. The support is still there albeit mostly on the phone but there is still 24 hour access to support.  


The health visitor rang to say she would not be visiting and a phone call would happen instead. The phone call lasted about 45 minutes and they were supportive but its a shame to not have a face to face as a new mum as even small interactions can be a nice distraction. I did however get booked on to see a midwife to check Rex’s weight at the health visitor when he is 4 weeks old as he hasn’t regained his birth weight and is still slightly jaundice. 


Never did I imagine when I fell pregnant that the first time my dad would meet his grandson would be through a window however sad this made me feel I thought of the stories we could tell Rex when he is older and I have to remember this is not forever.

So do I feel negative now 3 weeks into lockdown with a 3 week old? Surprisingly no. The time together with my partner and children to bond has been lovely. I’ve spent more time cuddling Rex than I did with any of my other children and I have rested more so my body has recovered a lot quicker. Yes I’m exhausted probably more than I would normally be as I’m home schooling two children whilst getting used to life with a newborn and I miss my family and friends more than I ever could have imagined but we are taking every day as it comes – doing craft, DIY around the house and jobs we never thought we would get done. Small things now make me so much happier. The other day the postman knocked and noticed Rex and we had a good talk about him while she admired him and it made my day. I take my pram out for exercise although we don’t go every day but every day I take the pram into the garden so I still get to use it. I’ve also come to look forward to the Thursday clap for NHS. The meaning behind it is great but in all honesty it’s the time of the week where I bring Rex out and all my neighbours ask how he is and I update them from a distance. I facetime my family and friends every day and we spend a lot of time planning what we are doing when lockdown is released. We have planned catch ups and a big welcome to the world party so everyone can finally meet him without a pane of glass between us. 

No Excuses. Our Health Staff Deserve Better Than This.

By Kelly Grehan

The anger is growing in me.

Our front line workers are dying: doctors, nurses, health care assistance.

This seems to be treated as inconsequential.

Last week, while giving the Daily Covid 19 briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “Four doctors have died and some nurses.”

Some nurses?

Yesterday he was asked to specify how many nurses have died.  He referred the question to the Chief Nursing Officer, who failed to give an answer either.

Today we were told 19 NHS staff have died. This was seemingly announced only after an outcry that they didn’t know yesterday.  Health charities have already disputed the accuracy of this figure.

Four weeks into this crisis health staff are still without adequate personal protective equipment. How can we be expecting them to step into what is essentially a battlefield without protective equipment?

Rather than apologising for this, or maybe even sorting it out, Matt Hancock took the opportunity yesterday  to ask NHS workers to treat PPE like a “precious resource.” Anyone who has ever worked in a radicalised environment knows this is counter to anything they have ever been told. PPE (gloves, aprons etc) are to be used for one task and one patient then thrown away. That’s its very point: to be used once and thrown away. 

You know what should be treated like a ‘precious resource ‘ Mr Hancock? 

Our NHS staff.

But that’s never been the case. 

For too long we – as a society – have failed to appreciate the work of our health workers.  We have ignored the physical and mental impact that looking after sick people has on people.  

Nurses have always received strange treatment in the UK. People call them ‘angels.’ But have been content to let them receive terrible pay and conditions. Other NHS jobs like portering or cleaning were largely seen as unimportant.

Only a few weeks ago we were told that health care assistants, and numerous other hospital workers  were among the ‘unskilled workers’ whom we did not need to include in the immigration system. Here we are relying on these same ‘unskilled’ workers to manage the front line in the worse health epidemic we have ever seen.

In 2016 junior doctors were described as “money grabbing” and ”selfish” by parts of the press when they took strike action over changes to their contract.

Let us remember these same doctors are now being forced to make decisions over who gets life saving equipment.

Why do we have a nursing shortage? Maybe because of the contemptuous manner nurses are treated.

According to CV Library the average nurse salary is £25,578 within the UK. Below the average salary in the country which is £28,677. Nurses study for 3 years and work in an incredibly demanding environment.

Until 2016-17 students doing a first degree in nursing received a bursary from the government worth up to £16,454 a year to help boost the NHS’s supply of “homegrown” nurses. That included payment of a student’s tuition fees of up to £9,000 and a maintenance grant of £1,000, neither of which were means-tested. In 2017 this was scrapped in a reckless move, announced by George Osborne. It was to be reinstated this year. I wonder how many potential nurses were financially unable to train in that time.

At the beginning of this year we had 43,000 nursing vacancies in England.

In June 2017 Conservative MPs cheered as they voted down a bid to scrap the 1% pay-rise cap for NHS nurses.  Every Tory MP except one voted against Labour’s motion, which came during Theresa May’s stint as prime minister.

I’ll just repeat that. THEY CHEERED. 

That’s the contempt they held NHS staff in.

And if we want to sum up the scale of NHS neglect these figures surely sum it up:

The European average for the number of critical care beds per 100,000  is 11.5, while the figure in Germany is 29.2, according to a widely-quoted academic study here dating back to 2012 which doctors said was still valid. Britain has 6.6. 

This can only mean that our health staff are now working in situations akin to a war zone – a lack of staff, equipment and protective equipment.

We simply must not tolerate the treatment our NHS staff endure anymore.

I want every health care professional given full protective equipment now. If it’s not there I want to know why not.

For every nurse (or other care professional) that dies I want to hear their name, I want their sacrifice acknowledged and honoured by this country. I want to know their family will be provided for by the state.

When this is over I want their names on memorial stones and I want the health secretary to know how many of them there are and to say their names out loud.

I want every single job in the health sector recognised as a skilled one. Porters, cleaners, doctors, physios, occupational therapists, radiographers, midwives –  every single one. I want their terms and conditions to reflect this.

 No excuses. 

We Should Not Be Having To Fight For Access To Abortion In The Middle Of a Crisis. But Here We Are

Kelly Grehan

The covid 19 crisis has transformed so much of our lives in such a short space of time. We need to ensure access to all areas of healthcare remains accessible. Having an abortion is a medical procedure which should be easily accessible on demand.

In the next 13 weeks as the COVID 19 peaks, 44,000 women will need an Early Medical Abortion. Many of the women needing them will be those with underlying health issues who have already been told to self isolate. All of us must avoid unnecessary journeys, we are told.

As with everything at the moment, services are being impacted upon by staff absences.  A quarter of abortion clinics run by bpas have closed because of staff isolating, so anyone  wanting to access an abortion may have to travel further than usual. We also know that usual practicalities – including childcare are much harder at the moment.

There is now a real danger that women will not be able to access abortion services.

On Monday the Department of Health and Social Care issued guidance, inline with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal College of Midwives and the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, making  recommendations to introduce a safe & effective, temporary telemedicine service for women seeking terminations. Later that day it was retracted. No reason was given.

Just to be clear what we are talking about, an early abortion involves taking two forms of medicine.  The first medicine ends the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.  The second medicine makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.

In medical terms this is a relatively simple procedure. So why is being denied to women now?  It is hard to see this as anything other than an attack on Women’s healthcare – at a time when many women are already suffering.

Dr Jonathan Lord, co-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Abortion Taskforce and British Society of Abortion Care Providers (BSACP) made these comments 

“It seems extraordinary how government advice is, quite rightly, to isolate in order to contain the spread of the virus – unless you are a woman requiring essential health care, in which case the Government will force you to go on a completely unnecessary journey to a crowded clinic or hospital.   I simply cannot understand why the Government is behaving in such a cruel and reckless manner towards women’s health.”

Is there reason to fear that we will see a roll back of our much fought for rights in the months ahead?

 In Texas, abortion services have been haulted in a move by the Governor to suspend “surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.”

Women seeking terminations need compassion, now more than others. I implore   Matt Handcock to listen to clinical experts regarding terminations and women’s reproductive health during this crisis and reverse his decision.

It’s Been A Terrible Week – But There Are Reasons For Hope

Kelly Grehan

As we all know the last seven days have been a week like no other.  Our way of life has been transformed. Amongst our new found hardships, shock and anxiety we are grieving the loss of things we were looking forward to – things like holidays, weddings, seeing our children attend proms and other rights of passage.  

Almost without exception we are all grieving the loss of things we never expected to miss – many of them things we always thought we never really liked.  Things like school – even taking exams, travelling on public transport, sitting next to people in meetings and driving our kids to hang around with their friends.

Most of us are anxious.  We are worried about money, health, family and we what worry what tomorrow will bring,

We are all missing people too.  I’m missing my baby nephew, I’m missing my friends  and the adventures I was expecting to have at the now cancelled 40th birthday parties I was expecting to attend this year.  Most of us have had emotional phone conversations with friends and relatives whom we would usually see regularly. Usually we might nip round to see a friend who was upset – give them a hug, make them a cup of tea.  Now we simply must not do that. I rang my grandparents today – to wish my Nan a happy mother’s day and realised as I hung up that I have no idea if and when I will see them again.  

It is ironic that after a decade where we have feared for the consequences on our children for lacking human contact as they were  spending too much time on their electronic devices we are now grateful they have them – as they face spending months with this being their only contact  with the friends they used to see every day.

Tomorrow, my children, like many others, will begin their first day of homeschooling.  Two weeks ago the idea that they would be learning from home would have seemed propostuous to me – I had always taken pride in their high school attendance, worried about the impact on their education and development of social skills if they were away and believed passionately in the need for them to spend time outside, with people from different backgrounds and to hear try new things. Now I don’t know when they will see any other humans in person other than each other, me and my husband and none of us know when we will visit a new place.  

 These are indeed dark times.  But I truly believe there are reasons for optimism.  

For as long as I can remember Britain has been known as a ‘selfish society.’  Headlines decried the fact people did not know their neighbours, did not do things for others.  We wasted food, we threw things away that worked perfectly well and inequality and a lack of things in common seemed to have bread a lack of empathy.

But this week, none of those things seemed to be true anymore.  Yes there are idiots hoarding toilet rolls and refusing to give up their rights to go to the pub.  But most people I know have condemned this and are disgusted by that behaviour. What I have seen this week could be described as a rebirth or reignition of true community spirit.  People are genuinely concerned for neighbours – often people they barely know the name of and are ensuring they are looked after. People are going through their cupboards and ensuring that, rather than waste food they pass it on to someone else and people are facing several journeys to shops to get shopping for neighbours whose health precludes them from making the journey themselves.  

There is conversation everywhere expressing concern for others. I have not heard a single voice of descent about the Chancellor’s measures to protect workers and have universal approval for the measures to include self employed.  I’ve never known such consensus on government policy before. Online forums – so often a place for vitriol are now filled with expressions of concern for others and offers of help for others along with thanks for health staff.

This illness seems to strike across the social divide.  For the first time in my lifetime I really feel that everyone feels we are in this together and that they must be part of the fight to save lives.  

As awful as everything is, I feel proud of my community and I hope the support and solidarity we are providing to each other last long after this wretched virus is eradicated.

Privilege and Panic

Kelly Grehan

I’ve never felt privileged like I felt this morning.  

I woke up this morning, sent my kids to school and my husband and I both settled down to a day home working.  No one in our household has any history of illness, indeed both my boys have impeccable school attendance records.  If I were to need to be off work I would get full sick pay, we could continue to pay our mortgage.

That’s not to say I am not experiencing moments of panic and horror at what is happening, but, for us, there is an unreal quality to it.  The biggest danger to us personally is for the four of us to end up stuck indoors together for two weeks and for our holiday to be cancelled.  

Our lifestyle – caused mostly by luck with health and circumstances – has shielded us from the horrors that now face many of our friends and neighbours.  We can, more of less sit back and follow the government advice and know that no difficult decisions await us.

I am painfully aware that, had this crisis occurred five years earlier, when my mum was suffering what turned out to be a terminal illness every action we took would have taken on a critical concern as any of us contracting the illness could have shortened my mum’s life and meant we could have been bared from seeing her – a thought so heartbreaking it’s hard to bear.  Then there is the thought of how my aunt, sister and I would have looked after my nan, who lived in sheltered accommodation had we been forced to self isolate when she was alive. In either circumstances we would have had to arrange our lives in an effort to try to stop us contracting the virus because the consequences of getting it would have been so awful. That would have meant keeping the kids off school, so not working and then all the financial and practical implications that would bring.

And, it is with heartbreak I watch friends now consumed with fear as they worry if decisions they are making are putting themselves or their families at risk.  I see people – who this time last week were making a decent living – not knowing if they will have jobs this time tomorrow or if their company can survive this week.  I cannot imagine the weight of trying to decide whether to stay off work because you have coughed a few times – knowing that doing so will mean you don’t get paid for at least 2 weeks and going to work means you might endanger others.

I see friends who cannot visit the parents who live in care homes and others cancelling long looked forward to trips to see family abroad or far away. I worry for  mums of disabled children fretting because they cannot get the larger nappy sizes they need or the specialist wipes they relied upon.

Never has life seemed as fragile or as unpredictable as it does now.Try as we might there is little we can but carry on.  I sent my love and admiration at everyone doing their best through these difficult times.

COVID-19: What It Means For My Family As A Young, But Vulnerable Group By Lisa Mulholland

The media is saturated with scientific talk, statistics and projections regarding the Coronavirus COVID-19. It’s enough to give any reasonable person some anxiety at least.

The panic buying of hand sanitizer, toilet roll, cleaning products, tinned foods is out of control, with queues outside of shops before they open. Which is a major inconvenience for me as someone who needs these products in abundance due to being a carer for my 6 year old who is disabled and incontinent who myself has diabetes and needs to test my blood sugar levels when out and about.

We are constantly hearing about other countries going on lockdown. Which becomes scarier when it becomes our European neighbours; Italy, France, Spain, Ireland … as the fear intensifies we look to our leaders and the authorities for reassurance.

But instead we get the complete opposite.

Boris Johnson said “ Many of YOUR loved ones will die before their time”…..

I mean, have you ever heard anything like this?

Then he went on to discuss herd immunity. As if the numbers and statistics of the people that are going to die are just that. But the vulnerable and the elderly are real people.

And right now, I , along with millions more, feel like my life doesn’t really matter. I have diabetes, several heart conditions, a disability ( Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) that can sometimes trigger autoimmune responses called mast cell activation disorder and I have 3 children that have various disabilities.

I am considered a ‘high risk group’ when it comes to most things. I have routine flu jabs, I have medical exemption from prescription charges, but I do not know whether I am a high risk group for this new virus.

I have received zero instruction. Zero advice.

When I search for the advice ( as of today , this could change very quickly) it is very flimsy indeed. I kind of feel like the decision is being left up to me about how to proceed. I am not a medical expert and I think we as a nation, especially the vulnerable groups should be given more direction.

If I get a basic cold, my body can do really strange things. My mast cells( the cells that detect a threat or a virus and are meant to protect us) go into overdrive and start attacking everything. Once I had dry eyes, I rubbed it slightly. Within an hour I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I went to my GP who sent me to the emergency eye department. After a series of tests they said my body had gone into overdrive and given me an ulcer on my cornea! I didn’t even know this was possible. But this is how strange my condition is.

What could an unknown virus do?

Let alone the impact on the diabetes or my heart…

My 6 year old has autism, global delay and suspected epilepsy and he goes to a specialist school where some of the children have conditions like cystic fibrosis that mean they’re on oxygen tanks/ tube fed. Most of the children there (700 of them as it is from age 2-19) will have underlying health issues. They’ve not sent out any information as yet because our leadership, our government have clearly not thought about them in their containment or delay ‘strategy’.

And when the media states this virus doesn’t affect children, do they mean all children? My children have the same condition as me. My 10 year old gets a cold and then the next minute he has an infected hand or limb. What would be the implications for him?

Or did they think about them and decide that they are one of the “many loved ones” that we will “lose”.

My eldest autistic son’s specialist school has children with autism but a lot of them have comorbid underlying health issues and they have taken matters into their own hands advising us to keep the children home if they are anxious or have underlying health conditions. They said they won’t mark any absences during this period.

Part of me wants to be safe, then another part of me thinks if this is going to go on for months then I’m not sure what to do. Do I send them in now before the real danger hits? Or has it already hit but we don’t know because we aren’t routinely testing? These are rhetorical questions but the governments’ lack of direction is shocking and dangerous.

We are people and we have value. We matter and we want guidance now.

Battle Weary Reflections On International Women’s Day

Kelly Grehan

This week we have had to face the fact, once again that the next President of The US will not be a woman. I cannot see a likelihood of Donald Trump – misogynist and sexual assaulter of women – losing the US election and that can only mean that a sizable number of voters in America do not find his behaviour towards women problematic – never mind reprehensible. Then there is the depressing rhetoric from some who explain they failed to support Warren because she is ‘school-marm-ish’ – what that means and why it would be a negative trait in a president I’ve no idea.

Warren, herself described the “trap” of gender for female candidates
“If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’” Ms. Warren said. “If you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
Then there is situation in my own Party. I’ve nothing against Keir Starmer being Labour Party leader, but I find it depressing that we will have two leaders called ‘Keir’ before we will have a female leader. My chosen candidate Lisa Nandy summed things up this week when she responded to being asked if she thought the women had had a tougher time in the leadership contest, Lisa Nandy responded that she had not ‘seen an article about Keir’s shoes yet.’’

People keep telling me things are improving. But are they really? The number of female heads of government is lower today than five years ago with only 10 women in such positions in 193 countries,

This week a UN Report, looking at 75 countries, found that not one had acheived gender equality. 91% of men and 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

Globally, close to 50% of men said they had more right to a job than women. Almost a third thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners. About half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders.

How do we start to combat this? We have had countless terrible male leaders which surely proves tosterone is not a bonus for a leader. We have had decades of feminism now, decades of campaigning for equality, of women proving (to use a phrase) that anything a man can do we can do bleeding.

But still here we are, fighting for a world where our daughters can walk home in their school uniform without men harassing them, where we can do our jobs without comment on our clothing and where when we say we have been sexually assaulted no one passes judgement on why we were alone/drunk/flirting/wearing a low cut top/dancing/etc.

Sometimes it is so exhausting fighting these battles over and over again. We think we are making progress and then we find ourselves in a world where Donald Trump is likely to serving a second term as President. But what choice do we have but to fight on? If we accept the world as it it we will never change it.

So for now, all I can do is heed Elizabeth Warren’s advice
‘’Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: Nevertheless, you must persist.’’

The Kingdom and The Lost Prince By Kelly Grehan

Once Upon A Time there was a Prince who was deeply unhappy.  Although he lived in a beautiful palace and had all the riches a person could dream of, his life had been marred by the terribly unhappy marriage of his parents –  a relationship that when it ended had threatened the whole stability of the Kingdom.  

Then the Prince’s mother had died in a terrible accident, which left the Prince traumatised.  This is another event which threatened the stability of the Kingdom, but, perhaps more importantly left the Prince, who was not yet even a teenager, angry and lost.

Years passed.  The Prince sought solace for his pain in many ways, but none helped. Then one day he met a woman who made his heart sing. Finally he had found the happiness he longed for.  

The Prince thought the Palace and all the Kingdom would rejoice at his happiness, but alas, he was wrong.  

People criticised his true love for her previous successful career as an actress, made mention of her mother being a lone parent whilst sympathising with the father who had left her as an infant.  

Unflattering pieces were written about his love which contrasted sharply with the pieces written about the Prince’s brother’s wife when she had done exactly the same thing – actions ranging from editing a magazine to cuddling their baby bumps.  It sometimes seemed that people were angry that the Prince had chosen a woman who refused to ‘know her place.’

The Prince and his true love decided to leave the Kingdom and embark on adventures where they, and their much loved baby son, could be free from those who felt ill towards them.

It was then that the trouble really seemed to start.  

Immediately the people who delivered the news to the Kingdom began writing about how evil the Prince’s love was – how she had committed such crimes as ‘taking him away from his family’ which confused the Prince because his love had given up her home and much loved career and moved far far away from her own mother when she agreed to marry him.  

Others accused her of sorcery – controlling the Prince… which was strange as others had sought to tell the Prince what to do all his life – including a particularly traumatic occasion where – as a 12 year old, he had been made to walk behind his mother’s coffin in a parade watched by millions of spectators and even more so all around the world.  

Others alluded to his wife being greedy which was particularly odd as when she had married the Prince his love had her own fortune.  

 Then there were those that said ‘they did not like the look of her.’ This further confused the Prince as to what this could possibly mean.  What, wondered the Prince, was it about his beautiful love that made some people feel this way?

The Prince was puzzled as none of these people seemed able to give an exaplantion…..

 

Others advised the Prince and his love that they they should tolerate the comments about their love, their child, her family and their life as it was ‘part of the job.’ This made the Prince feel very sad as he has never wanted the job of being a Prince and he felt that, had his mother not been a Princess, she would still be alive today.

Also many people accused him of not having a job which also made him sad as he has wanted a career in the military but this too, had been proven impossible as his presence would cause danger to others as people who previous accused him of laziness gave away details of his regiments whereabouts.

 

The Prince was bereft at the lack of compassion for him, his beautiful wife and their baby son.  He longed for a Kingdom or even just a land where they would be welcomed and understood.  

He felt sad that his own Kingdom had not been able to do this for him – particularly as the Kingdom had always claimed to be an open place which would welcome all.

The Prince made the brave decision to put his love first, not wanting her to meet the terrible fate that his mother had.

And then.

The Prince was lost to the Kingdom forever…

 

 

 

 

The Roaring 1920s Is A Myth. I Fear The Same Problems Await Us In The 2020s. By Kelly Grehan

Headlines about a ‘return to the roaring 20s’ have started to appear in newspapers, inevitably accompanied by black and white photos of flapper girls with bobbed haircuts and wearing pearls.

While there can be no doubt that some 1920s Brits were able to enjoy a life akin to that described in The Great Gatsby – visiting  nightclubs and drinking cocktails in haute couture clothing, for most survival was the main pursuit.

With a generation of young men lost in The Great War and many more returning home to squalid housing, no health care and an expectation they should never discuss or demonstrate any ongoing suffering from the horrors they had endured, life was grim.

Whilst the  Education Act of 1921 did, at least, raise the school leaving age to 14, schooling standards remained low. In the country, pupils at some schools were still practising writing with a tray of sand and a stick, progressing to a slate and chalk as they became more proficient. Classes were large, learning was by rote and books were shared between groups of pupils, as books and paper were expensive.

Coal reserves had been depleted during the War and Britain was importing more coal than it was mining. A lack of investment in the new industrial techniques led to a period of depression, deflation and decline in the UK’s economy.

By the mid 1920s unemployment had risen to over 2 million!

Wages were low, rents were high and there was little or no job protection. Industrial action persisted, culminating in 1926 in The Great Strike.  It was called by the TUC in protest against mine owners who were using strong-arm tactics to force their workers to accept longer work hours for less take-home pay.

In pre welfare state and NHS Britain poverty and desperation were common, as was premature death and despair. So it’s interesting that photos of well dressed women dancing the Charleston are the defining image of the era. I wonder, if this is because history is, of course, written by the winners. The winners of any non war era are, inevitably those who enjoy power and wealth.  

Talk of a new “roaring twenties” era strikes me as ludicrous in a country where 320,000 people are homeless (Shelter).

14 million people, including 4 million adults who are in employment, are in poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and schools are £2 billion worse off than in 2015 (Schoolcuts.org.uk). Other problems appear to be returning, for example infant mortality rates have risen for the last four years in England (British Medical Journal).

Studies appear to be indicating that unsurprisingly, poverty is a factor.

For some, of course, this is a golden era. Britain’s total wealth grew by 13% in the two years to 2018 to reach a record £14.6tn, with wealth among the richest 10% of households increasing almost four times faster than those of the poorest 10%.  

I don’t begrudge anyone their wealth BUT I am seriously fearful of what the future holds for a country where work no longer provides a route out of poverty,homelessness is a reality for many people and access to a good education is seriously under threat.

I also wonder if those taking about the good times being here are aware of just how much suffering and strain there is in this country, and whether in the future people will look back of photos of  wealthy people celebrating and will think they are typical of this era