Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about support for care workers during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
I believe this pandemic has brought into focus the differences in how the NHS and social care are treated. This is something I am taking a close interest in in my new role as Shadow Minister for Disabled People and I share your concerns that social care has lacked the priority, focus and attention it deserves. Longer term reform is, in my view, essential. For too long, care workers have been undervalued and underpaid and I believe it is right that they are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication they bring to their jobs.
Many care providers were already financially stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic, with £7.7 billion taken out of adult social care budgets since 2010. They now face additional costs as a result of coronavirus. The Government has rightly said that the NHS will get “whatever resources it needs”. I believe the same must apply to social care, with providers compensated for the additional costs caused by COVID-19.
As an immediate step, I believe the Government should consider establishing a Chief Care Officer, to sit alongside the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer and to help provide the national leadership, focus and attention social care deserves throughout this pandemic and beyond.
More widely, I welcome the Government’s decision to publish daily death rates outside of hospital settings, including in care homes, which is essential to tackling the spread of the virus and ensuring that social care has the resources it needs. It is also welcome that Ministers have committed to testing all care users and staff. I believe this must apply to those who receive care in their own homes and to domiciliary care staff as well as those in care homes.
However, further action is required to reduce the spread of the virus and keep care users and staff safe. Frontline workers are still reporting difficulties in obtaining enough of the right type of personal protective equipment (PPE) and too many care workers are still being asked to travel miles for testing. I will press the Government to ensure all care staff get the PPE they need and to bring forward a clear strategy on how it will deliver on its promise to increase testing.