Tom Richmond: MPs’ chance to show they care for the young carers

THERE was another glaring example of the very best and worst of politics at Parliament this week – and the latter had nothing to do with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling or Brexit.

The plight of young carers has been raised in Parliament - pictured posed my models.

The best? It came when Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield led a backbench debate in Westminster Hall on the support available for young carers.

His anecdotes from youngsters in his city – he is patron of Sheffield Young Carers – were inspiring and humbling in equal measure as he described the round-the-clock sacrifices they make for loved ones without complaint.

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Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield raised the plight of young carers in Parliament this week.

They’re people like 14-year-old Holly who started caring for her mother and her sister around the age of four or five. Her mother has an underactive thyroid and her sister has a reflux in her right kidney.

“The highs are that I get to spend lots of time with my mum and my sister. The lows are that I have no other family around, so it is just the three of us. It is very painful for me and very emotional to have to watch my sister screaming in agony,” said Holly.

They have a high-profile supporter – Theresa May – and Mr Blomfield said he was indebted to the Prime Minister for spending half an hour with eight young carers, including Holly, to hear of their challenges and how schools, and the NHS, could offer more help and 
guidance.

They were not asking for the world and Downing Street issued a supportive statement after hearing how young carers are prone to bullying at school, mental health issues and the increased risk of financial hardship. Officials promised “a review to identify opportunities for improvement”.

Higher Education Minister Chris Skidmore has come under fire for his stance on young carers.

Yet, because progress has been so slow, Mr Blomfield felt the need to lead this week’s debate and he won praise from MPs of all parties for his constructive and courteous approach. It did not matter that he is a Labour MP – he was doing the right thing – and he even gave Ministers four days’ advance warning about his questions so they could provide full answers.

However the response of Chris Skidmore, replying for the Government, exemplified the very worst of politics.

Leaving aside the fact that he has responsibility for higher education, as opposed to the NHS, he was indifferent. “There are clearly benefits for schools in identifying and supporting young carers, but changing the law to make them do so is not the best way forward,” he said at one point. As such, Mr Blomfield had every right to rebuke the Minister for speaking “quickly and quietly” before adding: “In some cases, where he did answer, he tried to shift responsibility away from the Government and on to local authorities and others, which was disappointing.”

This is simply not good enough. It is an insult to each and every carer – and the Minister now needs to make amends for his Grayling-like complacency at the earliest opportunity. Assuming, of course, that he cares.

Graeme Bandeira's tribute to Gordon Banks in The Yorkshire Post today.

CALLING for a joined-up approach to anti-social behaviour amid concerns that this issue is another being sidelined by Brexit, Hull North MP Diana Johnson recounted a famous encounter that Labour’s Lena Jeger had with a voter during a by-election in London in 1953 when German re-armament was a key issue.

It took place in a block of flats. When Lena paused for breath, the constituent asked: “Did you come up in the lift?” “Yes, dear,” replied Lena. “Stinks of piss, doesn’t it?” said the woman. “Yes, dear,” said Lena. “Can’t you stop ’em pissing in the lift?” asked the woman.

“I don’t think I can,” said Lena. “Well,” said the woman, “if you can’t stop them pissing in our lift, how can you expect me to believe that you can stop the Germans re-arming?”

As Ms Johnson said: “If we cannot get all our agencies working together to stop youths throwing stones at buses, or to tackle aggressive begging, how will voters believe that we can sort out the big challenge of Brexit?”

I don’t disagree.

STILL more non-jobs are being created by West Yorkshire Combined Authority which is now advertising for a “City Region Advisor for Culture and Citizen Experience”.

Really? Working “in partnership with 11 local authorities, Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and Yorkshire Sport Foundation”, it wants to “understand priorities across partners”, to “develop a more effective way to secure funding” and “to articulate the great quality of life available for everyone”.

Three questions. If existing staff at these organisations don’t know the answers, why not?

Wouldn’t a call to Sir Gary Verity at Welcome to Yorkshire save a lot of time and money? And who is authorising these pointless taxpayer-funded roles?

At least this post is just a year-long secondment – for now.

THE humility of World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who died this week, can be traced back to his childhood in Sheffield where he grew up on Ferrars Road in the shadow of the Steel, Peech and Tozer steelworks.

“Soot found its way inside every house and settled like a blanket on everything,” he recalled. “It was part and parcel of Sheffield life in the 1940s. No one could remember it being any different. No one spoke about air pollution. The smell and the soot were just the by-products of what everyone aspired to – work.”

A great player, he was an even greater person. For, when I had the good fortune to meet him in Beverley, he was smaller than I anticipated, but he had time for everyone. And he told me that he always attributed his success – which he described in the most modest terms – to his roots and upbringing in a community where no one complained about their fate. What a man.