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The Guardian view on unpaid care: time to heed Kate and Derek’s story | Editorial

Let us hope Kate Garraway’s films spark a national conversation and serious change. Society is nothing without care

It is an extraordinary story, it is an ordinary tragedy. Kate Garraway’s documentaries about caring for her late husband, Derek Draper, have drawn huge publicity and millions of viewers. That is partly testimony to the celebrity of the couple – a TV presenter and a New Labour politico – but it is mostly due to the power of their story. Covid ravaged every organ in Mr Draper’s body so that, in the programme aired this week, viewers saw this vibrant, sharp-witted man confined to a bed, struggling to walk or to form sentences. “His brain was his best friend,” Ms Garraway remarked at one point. “Now it is like his brain is his enemy.” Meanwhile, the work of caring for him pushed  her to the edge financially, psychologically, even physically. The stress was so severe that she developed heart pains that forced her to attend hospital.

Even amid this intimate suffering, Ms Garraway knows there are millions of other households in similar situations – except without her profile, access to expertise or high salary. Among the programme’s most moving sections are the testimonies from other carers about negotiating bureaucracy and trying to manage. They borrow money from friends and family, they go to food banks, they are “just existing”. The last census from 2021 found that 5 million people provide unpaid care to a loved one.

That is a sizable jump from a decade ago, and carers’ organisations believe the current total is higher still – perhaps 10 million – after Covid. Yet they are practically invisible in our political conversation. Ministers and economists note that nearly 3 million people are now long-term sick and worry about the impact on our labour force – but no one asks about the people looking after them.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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