A service user’s view of social care.

    Until recently, most of my care was provided by a team of
    volunteers, many of whom were recruited through the European
    Volunteer Scheme.

    Most were in their late teens and early twenties. They wanted to
    experience this country, its language and culture, and in return
    were happy to act as personal assistants for disabled people. Many
    had only a minimal grasp of English when they started and wanted to
    improve their language skills as well as widen their experiences.
    Among them, trainee nurses, therapists, doctors and social workers
    on sabbaticals were well represented.

    For years, this stream of motivated, bright young people enabled me
    to live independently. But this wasn’t all: my family and I learned
    about life in other cultures, different foods, different attitudes
    towards disability, different attitudes towards family life. We
    made a number of friendships which we hope will last a lifetime. My
    nine-year-old daughter said: “The good thing about dad’s disability
    is that we met all these great people!” Most volunteers left not
    only with improved English and a fondness for this country (what
    price that?) but also a greater understanding of disability.

    Some European governments, discovering that their citizens were
    providing personal care, decided that this was an abuse of the
    project and refused to allow their volunteers to participate. This
    contributed to the closure of the scheme in this area.

    It is sad that it had to end. Everyone seemed to benefit: the local
    authority paid less for my care (having only to pay for a
    co-ordinator, the volunteers’ living expenses and pocket money),
    the volunteers had a life-changing experience and learned to cook
    Chinese food. I had a good supply of carers. My children and I have
    an enriched view of the world.

    I am happy with my present carers, but I do miss the volunteers.
    I’m hoping this will remind everyone that policy decisions made
    without consulting the people directly involved often leaves
    someone, sometimes everyone, worse off, despite the best of

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