Supporting Carers – by Paul Thomas

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Opinion.

I listened with dismay to the opinions of some on the Today Programme on 15th December 2021 that social workers and families should be more ready to complain to the police if they suspect maltreatment of a child by a carer. This was their response to the deaths of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes at the hands of those responsible for caring for them.

My concern is how acceptable we seem to find it to default to complaint and punishment in these terrible situations, without balance with understanding and support. For Star and Arthur the harm was made by parents to children, but on other occasions it could be other kinds of carers and other kinds of vulnerable people – elderly or dying for example.

It seems that sometimes people do experience purposeful torture and murder at the hands of their carers, but many more experience poor care because their carers are inexperienced or overwhelmed – and those carers benefit more from understanding and support than complaint.

And then there is another thing that is rarely mentioned – some people who contribute little to someone’s care can be very quick to accuse those who are providing good care, perhaps as a way of dealing with their own anxieties, worsening the performance of those carers.

Isn’t it time for us as a society to recognise how difficult the caring role is in all its forms and how we all benefit by doing it better and together?

In April 2020 my wife, Eunice, died after four years of illness. My two teenage sons and I were her main carers in that time. I was amazed how ready very many people were to help, when it was clear what that help could be.

I was amazed how effectively my sons were as carers when they understood what to do and that this was a normal part of life. Also, I was amazed how a small number of people were ready to harm us by complaining about us without understanding anything of the issues. I was also amazed at how badly I was affected by those who complained even though their allegations were easily disproved; and they were comprehensively outnumbered by those who were supportive and appreciative.

Carers perform better when they feel supported by a community. Communities are built from thousands of positive caring actions. Vulnerable people provide convenient focus for those actions. COVID has brought us to better appreciate vulnerability and caring. We could perhaps build from this to develop society where people are more prepared to engage in caring processes and use these as ways to build caring communities at local level – potentially with far-reaching consequences.

When a vulnerable person comes to attention, the simple tactic of naming: 1) A Core Caring Team, 2) An Extended Community, 3) A Care Plan, around him/her, might help their carers to feel less isolated and more valued. It might provide a way to input materials that help those involved to learn how to care better and how to learn valuable life skills from contributing to care. It might also provide a way to gently reach those who need it most, before serious harm is caused, and support those who we might be tempted to blame.

This approach might help to develop a vision of society that values both individualism and collectivism – not as an either-or ideology but a place where citizens have rights and responsibilities to engage in each other’s life stories in ways that help to develop multiple “I’s” and multiple related “We’s” within village-size areas.

To tease out more of what this collaborative approach might mean we made a film about Eunice and streamed the first hour of her memorial.

You can see a 9-minute film about Eunice at

You can see the first hour of Eunice’s memorial at


Paul Thomas, London



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *