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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 22 February 2007

Gordon Brown with Camilla, centre, and Rowan Pay
Two unsung heroines

HEROISM is a word I would use to describe Jill Pay, a woman I have known for many years.
I am sure she will blush when she reads this but, perhaps, the Chancellor Gordon Brown will have similar thoughts to mine.
He visited her on Tuesday at her home in Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead, where she lives with her daughter Camilla, 20, and her severely disabled daughter Rowan, aged 18.
Gordon Brown was launching a national campaign to promote the cause of carers who look after the disabled and the very elderly – the unsung  heroes of our society.
He could not have chosen a better example  than Jill Pay.
I got to know her shortly after her daughter was born brain damaged, with bodily movements that to a layman like me  suggested she was suffering from cerebral palsy.
I never talked to her about how she managed – I just thought it was miraculous that somehow, as a single parent, she was bringing up Rowan as well as two other children. 
But this week she told me what it was like after she discovered about tiny Rowan’s condition. 
“I did not expect her survive but when she did I entered a kind of limbo for the first two or three years – I was devastated,” she told me.
After she had passed through that valley, she realised she had to soldier on – and she did, with an extraordinary determination which I have always admired.
At the time she lived in a flat in Bloomsbury entirely unsuited for a severely disabled child.  At one stage, she lived on the fourth floor of a block of flats without a lift.
So, Jill, who used to work as a shorthand-typist, began to pester the council for better conditions, and then from pestering she began to campaign, petitioning councillors, speaking at deputations at the Town Hall, all a world away from the quiet woman she used to be.
After 10  years, she was moved to an excellently adapted house in Fortune Green Road run by the John Grooms Housing Association.
Over the years, helped, I must say, by her son  Alex and particularly by her daughter Camilla, now 20, she has literally helped to improve the lives of carers in Camden.
At present, there are 15,500 carers in the borough. 
“They save the authorities £174 million because that’s what it would cost them if they had look after the disabled themselves.” Jill told me.
Jill knows so much about the subject now that she has become an expert on caring and regularly  gives talks to social workers in Camden.
Gordon Brown wants to simplify the benefit or pay structure for carers as well as improve services for them – something Jill is  very keen on. At present, like other carers, she has to rely on a jumble of benefits.
He spent most of the time at the Pay’s home talking to Jill’s daughter Camilla who, over the years, has become a kind of carer  like her mother.
After attending Haverstock School, she worked on Saturdays at the Weekend Arts College at Hampstead Town Hall looking after children with learning difficulties. 
Then she worked at the Swiss Cottage School for mildly disabled children.  Now, she is taking a degree course in education at an east London university but still spends one day a week helping at the Swiss Cottage School.
“Gordon Brown asked me what sort of music Rowan likes – and I told him, Robbie Williams, and the Simpsons on TV,” she told me.
“He was quite sweet and stroked Rowan’s shoulder who responded by clapping and giggling.”
In a week when the United Nations has put Britain at the bottom of the league for the way our children are brought up and behave, Camilla stands out as someone who has become a role model for other teenagers.
In fact, she gained the national Youth Volunteer of the Year award three years ago.
It’s little wonder Gordon Brown visited the Pay’s home.
Let’s hope it inspires him to bring about a complete transformation in the way the nation treats carers – they deserve our recognition.

BBC Radio’s Henry feels the burn at heath library

BROADCASTER Henry Kelly was in typically forthright mood at a talk at the Heath Library in Keats Grove last Wednesday.
The former Going for Gold presenter, who presents a daily radio show on BBC Radio Berkshire and a Sunday show on Classic FM, decried British broadcasters who “do not trust the people they employ”.
“It’s a big problem at the moment,” he told a rapt crowd who had turned out for the event.
“They tell people what to do. Personally I would much rather listen to my editor who is absolutely brilliant at what he does.
“There’s another trend at the moment saying: Ask the people what they want to hear. I think that’s crazy. What it should be is: I like this so I am going to play it for you.”
But he had a few kinder words for a system called “burn-out”, where  certain pieces of music are literally burned out from a presenter’s playlists to prevent being over-played.
“There are only two pieces of (Placido) Domingo left on our systems, at the moment because all the others have been burned out,” he said. “But I can’t complain too much. At least because of burn-out there are new pieces of music being introduced all the time.”
Pictured:  Henry Kelly flanked by writer Ruth Gorb and Lee Montague, chairman of Friends of Heath Library.

Frank talking

THE word ‘multiculturalism’ may be much-maligned in some quarters but not for Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson.
Frank, a special guest at an Eid celebration at the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre in Phoenix Road on Tuesday, was full of praise for the multicultural team at University College Hospital who helped him during heart surgery there last September.
He told guests: “People say multiculturalism has failed but I don’t think it’s true at all. My consultant was Chinese, his deputy was Bangladeshi, one of the senior nurses came from Jamaica and the man who put me to sleep was an Englishman. That epitomised what multiculturalism was about for me.”

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