LAST weekend, my family and I laid my grandfather to rest. He was 98 when he died, having been born three weeks after the armistice ended the First World War.

Though small in stature, he was a giant of a man, flying in the Second World War in the Air Observation Post and establishing war crimes tribunals after the war was over. Although it was incredibly hard to say goodbye, we were all comforted by the knowledge that he had lived a full life, rich in love, family and friends and full of achievement and merit.

In his final months, he was cared for by a huge range of people, from family members to nurses to care assistants. That care allowed him some dignity in his last days. He was treated as a human being – as a man who had lived a significant life and as someone who was part of a generation that made enormous sacrifices so that we could follow in peace.

His illness and his death have made me think more deeply about the people who care for others. Whether family members like my father and his sister, or the health and care professionals who looked after him in in hospital and then the nursing home, all of them are deeply undervalued in our society.

I am constantly shocked at the low levels of pay for care workers. It’s one of the most in-demand jobs and requires a high degree of skill and training, not to mention patience and compassion. Yet care workers are often paid little more than the minimum wage. According to recruitment agencies, the average salary of a care worker or support worker is somewhere between £14,600 and £18,500.

Across our county, there have been reports over recent months of caps in pay for care services tendered by the council, or of services being pared back. In these times of austerity for local councils, balancing the books and even maintaining an underspend may seem increasingly important. But we have to remember that every penny scrimped and saved is a penny not spent on caring for those who need it most.

I hope that for the sake of all those who need care in East Lothian, we will see an increase in both pay and funding for care services over the coming months.