Labour leader’s focus on social care in round-table talks at Keswick

Date: Friday 18th August 2017
Jeremy Corbyn and Barbara Keeley chat with staff at Cafe West during this week’s visit.
Jeremy Corbyn and Barbara Keeley chat with staff at Cafe West during this week’s visit.

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn was in Keswick on Wednesday on a visit which shone a spotlight on a day centre that provides support for older people in the town, including those living with dementia.

Jeremy Corbyn chats to an Amy’s Care client during his visit to Keswick, which focused on social care.
Jeremy Corbyn chats to an Amy’s Care client during his visit to Keswick, which focused on social care.

As part of a two-hour stop off, Mr. Corbyn spent time at Amy’s Care social club in the Crosthwaite Room at Keswick Museum, which provides opportunities for fun and stimulating activities.

Mr. Corbyn, who was accompanied by shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley, was visiting Copeland as part of a tour of marginal constituencies which Labour is hoping to win back at the next general election.

“I think it is about social justice,” he said. “Today I have been at Amy’s Care — it is a great organisation and a great voluntary group. It does wonderful work supporting older people. The memory quiz was instructive, but slightly challenging.”

The visit was also about raising awareness of the wider question of the number of older people who cannot leave hospital because of the lack of social care that is available as they move on.

Speaking to the Herald, Ms Keeley said she specifically came to Keswick because of the visit to Amy’s Care.

“It’s always good to come to talk through with local people how care works in their areas because it really matters how care is put together. It is a very good model that they have. It is very well staffed so the people are very well supported and it makes a big difference.

“Up and down the country at the moment there is a real concern that people are not having care and support and are being lonely and I have met people who are coming to Amy’s Care on Wednesdays and Fridays and are having that care and support, so it is really very good,” said Ms Keeley, the MP for Worsley and Eccles South.

Fraser Dooley, managing director and owner of Amy’s Care, said Mr. Corbyn took part in a reminiscence quiz all about brand names which had been prepared by Carlisle volunteer Mary Hayhoe. “This is a nice talking point as well as quizzing,” said Mr. Dooley.

Mr. Corbyn was told that one of the cameras carried by a journalist covering the visit reminded Harry Braithwaite, of the Keswick area, of those which were on board the planes which he used to fly, filming bombing missions in World War II.

Mr. Braithwaite also told Mr. Corbyn about his career as a driver and a mechanic, which started when he left the RAF after the war, and how he had to take a particular trip which involved him taking a letter from Austria to Rome, driving the distance on his own.

Brian Jackson, who teaches Scottish dancing in the area, asked Mr. Corbyn about his opinions on music, which led on to the Labour leader saying he was a “terrible singer” and at school was thrown out of a music class for being tone deaf, which he thought was a little harsh.

A group at Amy’s Care was that afternoon going to the town’s Theatre by the Lake for a poetry session. This led Mr. Corbyn to reveal that he had a love of poetry, in particular for the works of Samuel Coleridge and Percy Shelley.

Amy’s Care, which is a community interest company, has been going for four years. It provides social opportunities for older adults, providing them with the care that they need, and uses several community venues.

Mr. Dooley is hoping to extend the service to Penrith. He said: “The idea is that people can have a social opportunity, a change of scenery, get out of the house, stay fit and healthy and it gives a chance to give their carers a rest and do something for themselves.”

Mr. Corbyn also had lunch with Lynne Jones, chairman of Keswick Flood Action Group, who told him of the need for a legal requirement over the management of Thirlmere reservoir which would help protect residents from the threat of flooding.

He said: “Unless we have effective flood defences around every town then clearly there is a problem and if they are not completed in a timely manner there will be floods, which are not just destructive on industry and jobs but are very destructive to people’s lives,” said Mr. Corbyn.

Both he and Ms Keeley agreed it was understandable that people were still very angry about the questions that remained for United Utilities over the management of Thirlmere.

Cathy Parker, operations director at West House, which runs Cafe West at Keswick Museum, which provided Mr. Corbyn with his lunch, said: “He seemed to be quite impressed and he was enjoying his food.”

West House is a voluntary organisation based at Workington and it provides support to adults and children with learning disabilities. The Keswick cafe is part of what it does to provide employment opportunities for people.

About 20 people are employed at the cafe and they were very excited to find out on Wednesday that Mr. Corbyn was to be visiting them.

Mr. Corbyn was told about the work at West House, what the cafe was all about and the people who worked there, including Claire Harper, who has been employed for three years. She told Mr. Corbyn how much she enjoyed working at the cafe and what it meant to her.