As the world reels from the news of President Trump, and the UK remains immersed in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, politics seems to be the hot topic in every household... or at least that's what we are led to believe.
Yet in many households a billionaire celebrity president, or a protracted debate about the EU, isn't the most pressing issue of the day. For some people life is actually about the absolute basics that the rest of us take for granted, yet the needs and concerns of these individuals are rarely reflected in the news agenda.
So, I have a challenge for our leading politicians and policy makers. I'd like a few days with them, and I'd like to chain them to their beds - not in a Fifty Shades of Grey way - and give them a simple choice. They can:
• Be helped out of bed
• Use the toilet
• Have a wash
• Get dressed
• Have a hot drink
• Have a hot meal
• Take any medication they need
But, crucially, they can't do it all. They may only have one choice, or two, or possibly three. They are incapacitated and need the help of another individual - a fellow policy maker in the role of care worker - to achieve the choice(s) they have made. The person in the role of care worker is on the clock, rushing between visits, tired, stressed, hungry, needing the toilet and a hot drink themselves, and being paid the minimum amount legally stipulated.
Whatever 'care tasks' can't be achieved in the time allowed the 'care recipient' must wait for. It may be many hours, possibly even days, before they can complete this list. In reality, this may mean remaining in bed, lying in soiled clothes or sheets, itching from skin that needs washing, hair hanging lank and greasy, feeling cold from a lack of heating, hot drinks or food, and becoming unwell because they can't reach the medication they need.
It will undoubtedly feel inhumane, desperate and miserable. They may begin to wonder how their life became what it is, what they did wrong, why their community and our society as a whole doesn't value them more. Why no one cares.
I think most of us would agree that the daily 'tasks' I listed above are the fundamental elements of an average day - seven things that the majority of us do automatically. We do them with ease, and then move on to what we consider is important in our day. Yet if you cannot do any of these 'tasks' independently, the need you have for care and support IS the most important aspect of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I'm not sure what it will take for our society to wake up and realise this. Occasionally a news bulletin highlights the plight of our older, infirm and disabled citizens as they rely upon, and often wait for, the most basic care and support any of us can imagine. This article from BBC News, detailing another report on the perilous state of social care, was augmented by a filmed snapshot that went out on news bulletins last month and brought tears to my eyes.
My emotions were partly anger, partly sadness, but mostly frustration. I consider myself immensely fortunate to have never been in the position of someone dependent upon care and support, but in reality this could be any of us in the future. If it was YOU, what would you want? A choice of two or three essential tasks from a list of seven, or to have all seven automatically as your minimum human right?
Whilst I agree with this very well-reasoned article that social care isn't all about funding and that innovation is vital, until we place more societal and therefore more political emphasis on the fundamental elements of life, many of our fellow citizens will continue to be forced to make choices that none of us would ever want to make in our daily lives.
In that climate, it seems a luxury to be gripped by Brexit hysteria, obsessed with finding money for big infrastructure projects to expand our airports, railways and roads, or nervously eyeing up the new political landscape in the US. Instead, I suggest trying this:
When you wake up in your bed tomorrow, don't move. Lie still. Don't grab your smartphone, tablet or TV remote to see what the world is waking up to. Instead run through my list of seven essential elements of beginning your day, and ask yourself this:
Is there ANYTHING more important to you than the ability to complete these tasks?