Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will pledge to be the voice of the UK’s nine million carers in a deeply personal speech to his party’s annual conference.
Sir Ed will talk about being a teenage carer for his mother as she battled bone cancer after his father died when he was four, as well as the challenges of caring for his disabled son, John.
He will tell parents of disabled children and young people caring for their parents: “I understand what you’re going through, and I promise you this: I will be your voice.”
The Kingston and Surbiton MP, who served as a Cabinet minister in the coalition, is also expected to acknowledge the party’s “deeply disappointing” performance in the last three general elections.
He will tell the online event: “At the national level at least, too many people think we’re out of touch with what they want.
“The answer is to listen to what people are really telling us. And to change.
“We know that people want a better future for themselves and their families.
“So let’s show them that the Liberal Democrats can build that better future.”
Sir Ed, 54, was elected leader of the pro-Europe party last month, beating rival Layla Moran.
He previously served as acting leader after Jo Swinson lost her Commons seat in December’s poll.
In his first address to the party’s annual conference as leader, he is expected say: “Caring for people’s health doesn’t stop at the hospital exit, or the GP’s surgery door.
“You can only truly protect our NHS, if you protect our care homes too.
“You can only truly speak up for doctors and nurses, if in the same breath, you stand up for carers.
“For young carers and professional carers, paid and unpaid, in care homes and in people’s homes.
“This is personal for me. You see, I’ve been a carer for much of my life.
“First as a teenager, when I nursed my mum during her long battle against bone cancer.
“My dad had died when I was four. My mum was my whole world.
“So on one level, it was easy caring for mum: I loved her. But it was also incredibly tough.
“Taking her tumblers of morphine for her agonising pain – before going off to school.
“Coming home to look after her, helping her on and off the toilet.
“Taking life, day by day.
“Because there was nothing else you could do.
“And at the end, visiting her on a totally unsuitable dementia ward in my school uniform, alone by her bedside, when she died.”
Sir Ed will also speak of caring for his grandmother, and the challenge of getting her into a good, affordable home to “make her last few years as comfortable as we could”.
“And now, as a father. As my wife and I care for our son John every day. John is 12. He can’t walk by himself.
“He was nine when he first managed to say ‘daddy’.
“John needs 24/7 care – and probably always will.
“And that’s my biggest challenge: John will be on this planet long after Emily and I have gone. So we worry.
“No one can possibly love him like we do. Hold him like we hold him.
“And our fears are shared by so many parents.
“Many not as fortunate as Emily and me. So let me say this, to all of you who need care, to all of you who are carers, to the parents of disabled children.
“To the thousands of young people, caring for your mum or your dad.
“I understand what you’re going through, and I promise you this: I will be your voice.
“I will be the voice of the nine million carers in our country. It’s you I’m fighting for.”
Sir Ed will also use his speech to criticise the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying that ministers have not “risen to this challenge”.
“If you judged the UK’s response to this crisis solely on what the Government is doing, it would be easy to despair,” he is expected to say.