Social care chiefs tell DHSC their concerns over Covid-19 response

Leaked letter to senior health department official says ministers’ messages have created ‘confusion and additional workload’


PA

By Jim Dunton

16 Apr 2020

Pic: Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock holds up a 'Care' badge Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Top-level social care officials have written to the Department of Health and Social Care to voice their concerns about the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis as it affects their staff and the vulnerable people they are responsible for looking after.

A letter from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to a senior official at DHSC said mixed messages coming out of government were creating “confusion and additional workload” for managers and care staff they oversee.

The letter, which was leaked to the BBC, said that early-stage deliveries of equipment for the social care sector had been "paltry" while some subsequent consignments of imported products destined for care services had even been confiscated by border control and redirected to the NHS.


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Adass is the professional body for top social care officers responsible for supporting vulnerable adults in individual local authority areas. They typically have annual budgets of many millions of pounds and extensive teams of staff, and will be responsible for services provided to large numbers of people in their council area, either at home or in care facilities.

Among the organisation’s concerns, according to the letter, are funding for services, testing, personal protective equipment and the shielding scheme for vulnerable people introduced because of Covid-19.

Adass was also critical of central government’s approach to recruiting volunteers in recent weeks, saying the national scheme had “diverted 750,000 volunteers away from supporting local communities and left them with nothing to do for the first three weeks”. The letter said it was “shameful that this was not done in collaboration with local government”.

The letter, which was sent on Saturday, said here had been contradictory messages from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the DHSC on the shielding scheme for people particularly at risk from the illness.

It also expressed concerns that plans to roll out Covid-19 testing for care workers was being approached without adequate thought on “who is going to be tested and what we are going to do with the result”.

Yesterday, DHSC set out an action plan for the social care sector, aimed at reducing coronavirus outbreaks in care homes, supporting care staff and providers and maintaining independence of those receiving care.

Adass president Julie Ogley welcomed the move, but said the challenge was now how to implement the plan.

“Any strategy will ultimately be judged by actions it produces, not words it contains,” she said.

“This is a welcome first step towards recognising, prioritising and enabling colleagues working across social care to do their critical work to keep us all safe.  We owe it to them to implement it in full.

“Social care will emerge from this pandemic looking very different. It is vital that we use what we have learnt from this crisis to help shape and reform social care so that it is truly fit for the future and for future generations.”

According to Adass, around 1.5m people work in social care, supported by millions more family carers.

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