Essential community infrastructure
By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON
Australia is, of course, very different to the UK, with a smaller and more widely dispersed human population, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can learn from down-under.
Having lived in Australia for more than 30 years I can say that the popular image of the fiercely independent rugged individual is largely a myth and that what most strongly characterises Australians is their strong sense of community.
When I was living in the Western Australian Goldfields in the early 1990s a town called Esperance, with a population of perhaps five thousand people, became aware that it was suffering from the lack of a nursing home; frail elderly people who had lived in the district for their entire lives were having to be transplanted to regional centres hundreds of miles away, making visits by family and friends rare occasions indeed.
What happened? A community fundraising campaign was launched, the Esperance Town Council donated some land, the State Government chipped in, there was some lottery funding, a nursing home was built and a not-for-profit operator was brought in to run it.
We don’t see that sort of thing in the UK except for the ‘nice to have’ facilities such as village halls, sports pavilions and the like. When it comes to essential community infrastructure well, government hasn’t yet managed to wriggle out of its responsibility for schools but care homes, GP surgeries and the like are largely left to the private sector who are active only in those areas which their demographic algorithms say will be profitable and local planning authorities regularly fail to make proper allowance for appropriate amounts of suitable elderly accommodation.
Perhaps this is an inevitable consequence of modern urban living, where the sense of local community has been weakened; the few local authorities which are taking responsible measures to ensure adequate provision for frail elderly and other disadvantaged members of their communities must be applauded for so doing.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.