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Fact sheet

Monica Clarke - Caring as a vocation

Monica Clarke was born in Cape Town, South Africa in the 1940’s, at the very beginning of the apartheid era. During the 60’s she qualified as a Nurse and Midwife, subsequently studying Law as the political situation intensified in the region. Politically very closely involved with the ANC’s struggle against the apartheid regime, in 1984 she was pressured into leaving the country and moving to London.

Once settled in her new life in Britain, she secured work as a commercial lawyer and met and fell in love with John, whom she married. After six happy years of marriage, John was suddenly struck down by a massive stroke. From a position in which the couple were both earning very respectable salaries, within only two years they were on benefits. Monica had to stop work immediately as John spent a year in acute care and then, when he returned home, she took on the full caring responsibilities.

Monica Clarke speaking at an NHS conferenceOver the next eight years Monica experienced the full range of frustrations, anxieties and enormous difficulties common to most carers, with limited resources for venting her anger. However, she then became involved with her local Carer Support Group, an experience which she immediately found both therapeutic and empowering.

As she started to resolve her own personal anger, she became able to look more objectively at the wider carers’ agenda. Meanwhile, John and she became closely involved with the Aphasia movement, developing and publishing a communication information pack called ‘Less Words More Respect’, based on her own personal rehabilitation as a carer.

Also at this time she became more closely involved with her local carers' centre, working more strategically with them and getting involved in carer development. When, in 2000, the Health and Social Care Act resulted in the formation of the Clinical Governance Team, Monica was invited to work on a voluntary basis as the carer representative in the Patient Experience Team. She managed throughout this period to balance her caring role with her voluntary work, which ended in John’s death in 2002. Later that year Monica was invited to apply for the role of Patient and Carer Advisor within the Clinical Governance Team, a role she now works in today as an Associate Director, tirelessly championing carers' rights within the NHS.

Monica was fortunate enough to have acquired some key skills early on in life, but nevertheless she feels that most carers acquire these skills through the sheer volume of information they have to process in their caring role. Her journey was underscored by the very real belief that carers were actual, vocational partners within health, not simply a check-box on a hospital discharge form.