|Dr David Starkey|
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Public policy affects individuals
After Wednesday morning appreciating the NHS, we mosied down to Cornerstone to meet Jean, who’s recently been diagnosed with MND, and her husband, John. What a nice couple! They’ve lived in Grove all their married life. We share a number of the same professionals, like physio, GP etc. They were waiting for a stairlift to be fitted on Thursday, which will mean Jean will be able to sleep upstairs again. It does feel better going upstairs to bed. No doubt we’ll meet up again. In fact we’ll be seeing them again next week at the local MNDA meeting in Thame - about benefits. How timely!
I wonder whether they’ll have any light to shed on Moira’s plight. She has MND much worse than me (for example she can’t speak and can’t move), and lives on her own with a son and a full-time carer. Hitherto she has had Continuing Care funded by the local NHS Primary Care Trust. Now they’ve reassessed her and decided she’s not eligible after all - interesting idea since MND is degenerative. So they say she’ll have to apply to Social Services to fund her care. That will not come cheap, of course. One wonders, naturally, whether it’s more a matter of healthcare economies than patient needs. As far as I can see she should qualify for the NHS funding for her Continuing Care on more than one priority criterion. She’ll no doubt appeal, but in a fortnight she’ll have her funding discontinued and be left fending for herself. That seems a plain injustice. Why can’t her funding be maintained until the appeal is made (within 28 days) and a decision reached? I guess there’ll be more stories like this in the months ahead as public bodies tighten their belts. The sad thing is, it’s the vulnerable who get squeezed in the process.
On Thursday evening there was an unexpected and most welcome item on BBC1’s Question Time from Derby, where the foster-parents, Owen and Eunice Johns, live. They’re the Pentecostal Christian couple who as a result of a jointly requested judicial review were declared unfit to foster children between 5 and 8 years old, because of their views on homosexuality. The judges ruled that they were potentially harmful to children entrusted to their care. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of their views, that does seem to exclude everyone with opinions which are not politically correct. This was sadly illustrated by the two politicians on the panel, Margaret Beckett and Ian Duncan-Smith who in particular tied himself in knots about the case.
By contrast, popular and trenchant historian, David Starkey was clarity itself. “I’m gay, and I’m atheist,” he began, “but I have profound doubts about this case. It seems to me that what we’re doing is producing a tyrannous new morality which is every bit as oppressive as the old.” He went on to describe his early experience of being hounded as a gay man, but he said we now have a ‘liberal’ morality which is in danger of being equally intolerant. He also talked about being a gay son of a Christian mother, who passionately hated his homosexuality, and he said it did him no harm. “It made me what I am.” We live in a complicated pluralistic society, and it’s hard. But we're in danger of creating 'thought crime'. “Just having a reach-me-down, off the hanger, imposed morality is a very bad idea.” I must say I warmed to him surprisingly and found myself thinking, “There’s a wise man. Refreshing to hear an atheist defending Christians’ and everyone's freedom with such intellectual rigour.” That of course cuts both ways, including Christians not imposing their morality on atheists. Argue for by all means but not impose. It’s worth listening to the discussion on the subject: BBC Question Time re Foster Parents.