Thursday, 4 November 2010

Please don't hijack care

First, an apology: I fell into the oldest trick in the politician's PR book, viz "When you've got some unpopular policy to announce, leak a worse version first and then when you make the real announcement people will think, 'Well, that's not so bad, is it?'" The cap on student loans is going to be "only" £9,000 per annum, but, unlike now, there will be an additional 3% p a over inflation to repay. It's still quite a hike from the present and still, of course, means students ending up in debt. Graduates on the national average wage of £31,000+ would pay 19.3% more tax than their non-graduate contemporaries, while paying off their loan. One mysterious (to me anyway) rule is that graduates will be penalised if they pay the loan off early.... (

This week car manufacturer, Toyota, are having yet another recall, this time of 12,000 of their iQ models in this country (bringing the grand worldwide total over the past months to 10 million of various models). It's extraordinary how successful they still are. First it was a braking problem ("Keep your distance; the car in front is a Toyota"); this time it's a fault with the steering. I know they're not the only car maker to recall cars, but they seem to have more than their fair share.

It's ironic then that Care Services minister, Paul Burstow, should be so keen on another Japanese invention, Hureai Kippu. I don't know how likely it is to crash, but it's a very bad idea. In case you don't know, it means "Caring Relationship Tickets", and it's a way of rewarding voluntary carers with credits they could later redeem to fund their own care when they need it. So, for example, if someone were to shop for me or wash me or help me on the toilet - out of mere concern or love - they could log it and put it in a "bank" of credits for when they needed care. Good idea, you might think on a superficial level. However, there are two things fundamentally and profoundly wrong with this. 

One is that everyone, whether or not they've been nice or nasty, whether they've clocked up Hureai Kippu points or not, ought to be cared for when they're in need. Compassion should be free at the point of need. 

The other is that care, voluntarily and freely given, is just that. To link it to self-serving reward is to pollute its very nature. Certainly caring for someone else brings incredible personal reward, but as a by-product, not as its purpose. The caring professions, of course, are incomparable and I rely on them, but the care of those who stand to earn nothing from it is of a different order. To incentivise it would be to compromise it tragically.

I'm reminded of the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola - which I think I learned in my brief career as a Cub Scout -. It would be an immense loss to abandon the profound principle of disinterested service which remains a beautiful part of our country's Christian heritage, even if so clearly enunciated by a Spaniard!

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve Thee as Thou deservest;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Thinking of volunteering, the episode of The Secret Millionaire on 17th October contained a good example. "Travel website entrepreneur and self-confessed geek Chris Brown confronts painful memories and undergoes a life-changing experience as he looks for people to help in north Manchester." Among the charities he visited was The Mustard Tree where Paul works. What Chris Brown found hard to get his mind round was when he offered £15,000 to Oscar, who works in the refuse centre and does up thrown out bikes and gives them to families who couldn't afford one. Oscar turned the money down, because he simply loves doing it. He does it out of love. That is worth the world. To give Chris Brown his due, he respected Oscar's decision. Let's hope the government gets the point too.


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