I HAVE heard the words “duty of care” quite a lot over the past week.

Who are these people so urgently requiring a duty of care that cabinet ministers are speaking out on their behalf? Those who served in the armed forces and now live on the streets, ravaged by addiction and mental illness? Vulnerable young people who grew up in and out of care, starved of affection, then left to fend for themselves? Women trapped in abusive relationships? Unpaid carers so exhausted and isolated their own health is failing? Victims of human trafficking or modern slavery? Children living on food bank handouts?

None of the above. It’s grown adults who agree to appear on reality TV.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says reality TV shows have a duty to care for contestants after they become famous.

Speaking at this week’s Spectator Health Summit, he said: “The sudden exposure to massive fame, I suppose, can have significant impacts on people and I think that it is a duty on any organisation”... “making them famous overnight, that they should also look after them afterwards.”

Read more of Emma's columns: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/17497664.is-it-wrong-to-say-i-cant-stand-comic-relief/


The Health Secretary’s comments followed the deaths of two former stars of ITV2’s Love Island. Mike Thalassitis, 26, died earlier this month and Sophie Gradon, 32, was found dead at her home last year.

Jonny Mitchell, who was on Love Island in 2017, told BBC Radio 5 Live that many people struggle to return to normal life after appearing on the popular dating show. “If you come off one of the biggest shows on TV, you can’t go back to working in Tesco”... “so it creates a lot of strain on people,” he said. “To come off a show that big, to be tossed out into the world with no help, no guidance, no anything, it’s a massive shock and then you start thinking, ‘Well, I’m famous, but what do I do next?’”

Love Island said care for islanders “is a process the show takes very seriously and is a continuous process for all those taking part”. It will offer “bespoke training” to all future contestants following the deaths of the two former stars.

Of course these deaths are desperately sad. I have often wondered how reality show contestants, particularly young people, cope when they’re catapulted from anonymity to intense public scrutiny. But I don’t share Matt Hancock’s view that such shows should take responsibility for their wellbeing.

Why should they? Shouldn’t it be up to those who willingly sign up for these shows to take responsibility? They go on telly hoping for fun, fame and a lucrative celebrity career. When the fame barely lasts 15 minutes, they’re back in the real world.

Why should there be a duty of care? If you lost your job, would there be “aftercare” from your former employers? I doubt it. Earlier this year I met a war veteran who crawled for miles, with a bullet in his side, through a Burmese jungle and Japanese shellfire. There was no aftercare when he returned home. He got on with his life.

Life isn’t a reality show, filled with beautiful people, hot romances, cute bromances and slo-mo montages. It’s actual reality - mundane, unfair, occasionally horrible. It’s taking responsibility for ourselves, our choices, behaviour and any consequences.

Perhaps we should listen to Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price, who urged the public to “step back” from watching “voyeuristic” reality TV. “Real life shouldn’t be entertainment.” she said. Quite.

Maybe that’s the duty of care we have - not to watch in the first place.

* ON a bus recently, I noticed a young woman engrossed in her irritatingly loud phone, pinging with repetitive arcade game noises. Lost in a world of online gambling, she looked like she didn’t have two pennies to rub together.

Last week the T&A reported that the father of a man who took his life after developing a gambling addiction aged just 17 urged councillors to get tough on gambling businesses. Many gambling premises are in deprived areas. Online betting sites are even more of a threat, especially to the poor and the young. A shameful sign of our times.

* MOTHER'S Day gift press releases began to appear in my inbox well before Christmas, and I seem to have had several thousand of them since then, so I'll be relieved to see the back of it after this weekend.

It's a time of sadness for me, since the death of my mum. The Mothering Sunday tradition, rooted in Lent as a day when people visited their "mother" church, has inevitably become an excuse to peddle twee tat on an industrial scale. The commercialism is a horrible reminder, to those of us without mothers, of what we have lost.

Sunday won't be a day of flowers, cards and afternoon tea for me. But to those of you who have mothers, or are mothers, I hope you have a happy day, and that you cherish what you have.