THE Government continues to ignore a crisis in social care that left the care of our oldest and most vulnerable exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Independent Care Group (ICG) said today.
Welcoming the publication of a first inquiry into the pandemic, the ICG said social care paid an awful price for years of under-funding and under-staffing when coronavirus struck.
And it warned that the Government seemingly has not learned any lessons as the social care sector continues its survival battle.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “We know that at least 32,849 people died from Covid-19 in care settings between 28 December 2019 and 24 September this year. Without the blood, sweat and tears shed by our amazing staff within the social care sector, that could have been much worse. They performed miracles.
“When Covid-19 hit, the care of people in their own home and in care and nursing homes was already on the brink after a generation of neglect.
“The Government then compounded that situation by putting social care to the back of the queue, concentrating attention and resources on the NHS as it reacted to the pandemic.
“At the outset, care providers were told to continue as normal and even when alarm bells started ringing, we had to fight to get proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), access to the right testing regime and funding support to prevent us being overwhelmed.
“Eventually, the Government did acknowledge that social care was as much a part of the frontline against Covid-19 as NHS care was and we got a measure of support.
“But if you ask whether any lessons have been learned, I would say the signs are, alarmingly, that they haven’t and social care is still playing second fiddle to NHS healthcare.”
The ICG has welcomed the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Report, Coronavirus: lessons learned to date.
In particular, the ICG welcomes the report’s acknowledgement that longstanding pressures on social care need to be tackled urgently; that the prominence of social care within its government department needs to be addressed and that reform of social care, via a 10-year-plan, is overdue and needs to be undertaken urgently.
The report also endorses the Health and Social Care Committee’s call for additional resources to be directed to social care.
Today’s report says: ‘That Committee has made the case for an increase of £7 billion a year by 2023/4. We note that despite the Government’s recent announcement the level of new investment in social care from 2023/24 remains unclear.’
Mr Padgham added: “We have to get more funding into social care to tackle the staffing crisis and start providing care for the 1.5m plus who are living without the care they need. We must also reward those amazing care staff properly for the critical work they do.
“The Government maybe believes that it solved the social care crisis by announcing some extra National Insurance funded money. But that extra funding will first go to the NHS, with social care not receiving any benefit for some time.
“Social care has already been hit hard by the inability to recruit overseas workers following Brexit. The compulsory vaccine could take another 40,000 out of the sector – where there are already 120,000 vacancies. The report acknowledges this and we would call on the Government to postpone the November deadline on this straight away.
“Social care is, once again, on its knees and further storm clouds are gathering that could push many providers to the brink, leaving the country short of care this winter, when it needs it most,” Mr Padgham added.
“The litmus test for this first report will be whether the Government reacts to it and carries out the root and branch reform of social care that has been needed for many, many years but ignored by government after government.”