The Labour Party has called on the government to take urgent action to support the struggling social care system, including both workers and service users, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Following concerns raised by the Alzheimer’s Society and other organisations, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that “we cannot leave care home residents and staff fearing for their lives”.
The party requested clarity from the government on the support it will provide to the social care system and specified four key areas of action for the sector during the health crisis:
- Testing – the party has said that testing should be rolled out for social care staff and residents in care homes with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, citing high levels of absences of staff due to self-isolation.
- Delivery of PPE – Labour has said that care homes, hospices, home care services and other non-NHS providers of care are struggling to access adequate PPE from their existing suppliers and has called for the government to step in.
- Funding – the party has called for immediate extra funding for social care, highlighting that the pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic follow £7.7bn worth of cuts from local authority social care budgets since 2010.
- Leadership from central government – Labour has said that the Department of Health and Social Care should prioritise social care and ensure continuous monitoring of the pressures facing the sector.
Commenting ahead of this afternoon’s update from the government, Ashworth said: “Every family with a loved one with dementia or needing help will be anxious to ensure they are receiving the care they need. And our hardworking care staff deserve protection and security too.
“Increased testing for care home residents and providing full PPE are both actions that should be taken to provide greater protection to those who receive care. We hear day after day that care homes aren’t able to access either tests or the PPE they need, putting both staff and care home residents at risk.”
“We cannot leave care home residents and staff fearing for their lives. The government must provide reassurance to care home residents and their families by setting out the steps they are taking to keep people safe.”
The lack of PPE available to care and other health workers in the UK has been branded a “national scandal” by trade unions, as a large proportion of people on the frontline are having to self-isolate after displaying symptoms.
A total of 60,733 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the UK since the outbreak of the virus, but the true figure is estimated to be much higher. There have been 7,097 recorded deaths so far.