2 minutes reading time (406 words)

Old and disposable?


The awful scale of illness and death in our care homes is becoming clearer, along with the heroic dedication of staff in these homes, many of whom are poorly paid for looking after our most vulnerable citizens. Questions are rightly being asked about the failure to prepare properly for this eventuality, and about the lack of protective equipment, which has forced staff to work in unsafe conditions. By one estimate, the proportion of care home workers who have died of Coronavirus is double that of hospital staff. One day, when the dust has settled, and we're no longer inhibited from asking "What went wrong?" by the constant refrain of "We're in this together", there will be a reckoning.

For now, I'm reminded that, until this crisis, care homes and their residents and staff were basically out of sight, out of mind. So there are some big questions to ask. Do we, as a society, do enough to ensure the well-being of the old and the frail? And do we recognise (not least by proper attention to pay and conditions) the work done by carers on our behalf? And ... (here you can add in all kinds of other issues, from transport to NHS funding to a green economy) will we learn lessons from this traumatic time, or will we succumb to the pressure to fall back into old ways? 

One other thing: as we look for reasons why this country has suffered so badly from this pandemic, it will be easy, but perhaps misleading, to focus on the failings of individuals. Instead, we will need to expose the systemic failings - lack of preparedness, underfunding of health and social care, deep-rooted inequality - which have made this tragedy so much worse than it might have been. Hindsight is easy, of course; but the failure to create a just society, in which the weak and the vulnerable are honoured and protected, is a disgrace of long standing. 

Oh, and one more other thing: the Church may not have the heft it once did in public affairs, but we can still stand for justice, truthfulness and compassion - the values of the Kingdom - in the way we lead our lives, and in our advocacy for those who are so easily overlooked. Over the time that lies ahead, we can play our part, along with many others, in working for a healthier society and a fairer world.

No more enemies
Living with uncertainty

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