Industry organisations and leaders have responded to the government’s action plan for social care:
VODG says that it welcomes the government’s efforts to produce an action plan for the sector, but believes the strategy lacks detail on delivery. We need policy makers to grasp the very real, very live challenges the sector is facing while also making an investment to lay the foundations for a stronger sector once the pandemic is over. Instead, today’s publication provides a canter through the government’s reactions thus far when what the sector needs is a clear plan that instills confidence among social care providers coupled with a meaningful commitment of financial investment in a sustainable future.
In specific reference to today’s strategy, VODG raises the following points:
Controlling the spread of infections in care settings
It is scandalous that social care has consistently been at the end of the queue when it comes to accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) vital to protect people who use services and the workforce. Furthermore, current guidance around personal protection equipment is confused and implementation lacks engagement with the sector. As a key infrastructure body in the sector we are hearing first-hand how providers find the guidance inconsistent and difficult to interpret. This is having a direct impact on organisations’ ability to ensure proper use of PPE.
News that all social care staff who need a test will now have access to one is welcome of course, but it also comes too late given the face-to-face support social care workers have been providing to people since this pandemic broke. Furthermore, the success of this decision relies on testing facilities being accessible for all workers, across all services, across the country, and that is much broader than those regulated by the Care Quality Commission.
Supporting the workforce
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shone a bright light on the work that social care workers and organisations carry out to support people across the country each and every day. The pandemic hit a social care sector that was already struggling with high turnover and vacancy rates and significant recruitment challenges.
It is reassuring that today’s strategy includes a strong focus on supporting the social care workforce – but it could go further. There is, for example, an emphasis on appreciation, but no mention of pay, which we already know is a significant factor in the retention and recruitment of staff.
VODG would also welcome further focus on an indemnity solution for social care, just like the NHS has received.
Supporting independence, supporting people at the end of their lives and responding to individuals needs
Equality and human rights must be upheld as our country responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is encouraging that in today’s strategy the government notes that blanket bans to treatment, collective do not resuscitate orders are unacceptable. VODG believes the only criterion that should be applied to critical care decision-making is the likelihood that someone will recover and return to a good quality of life. VODG would like to see the government go further and explicitly deny any approaches that see groups of people being deemed less eligible for healthcare based on age, disability and other protected characteristics.
Supporting local authorities and the providers of care
Years of sustained political failure to address the lack of funding for the social care sector means that the system was in an already extremely precarious position before the coronavirus outbreak. The Prime Minister told the country that the government would do ‘whatever it takes’ to respond to Coronavirus. However, the £1.6billion emergency funding granted to local authorities to help cover additional pressures created by the crisis is simply not enough to address the financial challenges faced by social care providers, particularly voluntary sector providers.
Voluntary sector providers of social care predominantly serve people who rely on the state to pay for their care and their expertise and good practice is essential in responding to the pandemic. However, VODG is aware that funding from the £1.6billion package to local authorities is still not reaching providers today. Now more than ever we need strong local leadership to work hand in hand with the voluntary sector to ensure people in some of the most vulnerable circumstances are best supported at this time of great need.
The Social Care Institute for Care (SCIE) also welcomes the publication of the COVID-19: Adult Social Care Strategy spokesperson said “The growing death toll amongst social care workers and those they care for is deeply distressing. It demands a determined effort to ensure that social care now gets everything it needs to carry on caring. The Government’s strategy is an overdue recognition that social care is on the front line battling to keep the most vulnerable and frail safe from Covid-19. A fitting legacy of the pandemic would be that finally after decades of delay the time has come for reforming our social care system, not for patching.”
“It is indeed welcome to see this strategy published, for too long social care appears to have been an afterthought, putting thousands of potentially vulnerable people at risk, even more so during this COVID 19 crisis. This strategy when turned into action will start to address that balance, and will hopefully lay the foundations for future much needed reform. I look forward to supporting SCIE to play its part in the recovery and reform of social care starting with this strategy.”
Commenting, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“At long last, the Government has recognised the role of the social care sector in this fight back against coronavirus.
“Social care is just as important in the national response, having nearly twice as many workers as the NHS, and further supported by as many as 8.8 million unpaid carers looking after family members and friends in homes. A plan for our sector should have come sooner.
“It’s good that testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) are now being prioritised for social care workers who need it most, but it is vital that it reaches them. There must also be enough for unpaid carers, some of whom are caring for extremely vulnerable people, including those who are shielding.
“It’s also right that the Government is working to ensure that people have the right to say goodbye to those who pass away, and this will be incredibly important for families looking after loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill.
“We are glad to receive funding from the Government towards our helpline which is a crucial port of call for unpaid carers at the moment. They have lots of questions and concerns about how they will manage in the weeks ahead, especially where their support services have been reduced.
“Unpaid carers tell us they feel they haven’t been sufficiently recognised in the national response to coronavirus so far. This plan goes some way to providing the recognition they need, if it is delivered. Carers need further recognition of the extra precautions they are taking, recognition of the many extra hours of unpaid care they are providing, recognition of the huge anxiety they are experiencing as they try to protect their loved ones.”
“Going forward we need Government to look at other aspects of caring that are extremely challenging, including a rise in Carer’s Allowance – the lowest benefit of its kind at just £67.25 a week – to help carers manage financially.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) chair Mike Padgham said: “Credit where credit is due, these new measures will aid social care in its fight against coronavirus and we wholeheartedly welcome what the Secretary of State has announced.
“The issue of coronavirus testing and getting proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to our frontline staff has been a major issue for us so far and we welcome action at last.
“Up until this point it has felt like social care was playing second fiddle to the NHS whilst in reality care workers and NHS are side by side in our fight to tackle Covid-19.
“It feels like it has been a long time coming but at last social care is getting the recognition it deserves right down to the Secretary of State wearing his Care badge with pride and describing it as a badge of honour.”
Social care currently looks after 400,000 people in care and nursing homes – that is three times the number in NHS hospital beds. It looks after a further 640,000 people in their own homes.