YEARS of neglect and under-funding meant the care of older and vulnerable people was in crisis when the pandemic struck and tragedy was inevitable, the Independent Care Group said today.
It said providers mourned every single Covid-19 death and sent their condolences to everyone who had lost loved ones.
The priority now was to force the Government into setting a deadline for getting the sector the reform it needs to ensure it is not left in crisis and vulnerable again.
The ICG said social care was virtually ignored at the start of the pandemic and providers were left unable to get proper tests, personal protective equipment, and the right guidance.
The ICG was commenting after the sector’s watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), published a list of how many people have died from Covid-19 in each individual care and nursing home across the country.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Behind these statistics are stories of personal tragedy and we must never forget that. Every Covid-19 death is the sad loss of a much-loved husband or wife, parent or grand-parent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or friend.
“As care providers today, we mourn each and every one of them.
“All care and nursing homes that have lost residents to Covid-19 have been left changed, shell-shocked and exhausted after shedding blood, sweat and tears to the task of keeping residents and staff as safe as they possibly could in the face of a cruel, indiscriminate and unprecedented pandemic.
“If it were not for the close partnership working with North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, the figures would have been much worse. In many cases the local authorities were in front of government thinking and acted in a supportive way from the start of the pandemic. The ICG worked very closely with these organisations and relationships have been strengthened accordingly.
“This is also a perfect moment to thank the amazing social care staff across the country who have performed miracles to keep care and nursing home residents and people being cared for in their own home as safe as possible. They have been magnificent. We thank them and owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
“The reasons that social care settings were so vulnerable to Covid-19 are many.
“Government after government, of all political party, have failed to tackle the social care issue. Instead, a generation of neglect of the sector – which has seen £8bn cut from social care budgets since 2010, some 1.5m people living without the care they need and 120,000 vacancies in the sector – left it on its knees, with providers already closing or on the brink of survival.
“Against this backdrop, the pandemic struck, and social care providers were hit by a brutal virus they were ill-prepared for.
“As the Government struggled to cope it concentrated its efforts on the NHS and social care was virtually abandoned. Poor access to proper testing, poor supply of the right type of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a lack of clear guidance from the Government compounded an already dreadful situation.
“At the same time, as wards overflowed, hospitals were discharging patients into care homes without tests, taking the virus into those care settings and causing many of the deaths we are seeing listed today.
“It was a perfect storm – a storm that has not abated since.
“The Government hasn’t got everything right but to be fair, this pandemic was unprecedented and any administration would struggle, as they have all over the world. Many things our Government has got right, including the rollout of the vaccine, which has been exceptional.”
Mr Padgham said the priority now was to give social care the reform it needed to ensure social care was not left in such crisis again.
“We know that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away yet and we are still working hard to keep our care and nursing home safe by keeping all of our restrictions in place. Those homes are safe and we want to get that message across,” he added.
“Many care providers are facing an existential battle to survive. Already on their knees before the pandemic they have been battered by Covid-19, left physically and emotionally exhausted and financially crippled. Rising costs due to the pandemic and the failure of occupancy rates to recover means a real struggle.
“That means we must now have the reform of social care that we have been promised for a generation.
“Social care needs better funding – whether through taxation or National Insurance – to create a sector that can cope with rising demand, recover after Covid-19 and properly reward and recognise the staff who have performed miracles this past 16 months.”