Des Kelly OBE, R&RA Trustee, responds to the Prime Minister’s comment on care homes
The backlash that has followed yesterday’s seemingly off-the-cuff remark by the Prime Minister that “too many care homes didn’t really follow procedures” relating to the COVID-19 crisis has been swift and strong – a ‘slap in the face to care workers’. It seems like more of a punch than a slap to me! Seems like the Government getting in the first blow and using it to put the care sector on the defensive.
Relevant perhaps to a quote attributed to a prime minister who served over 100 years ago (the last to lead a majority Liberal government). Herbert Asquith said:
“[The War Office kept three sets of figures:] one to mislead the public, another to mislead the cabinet and the third to mislead itself.”
Make no mistake – this is only the first round of apportioning blame for the awful toll that COVID-19 wreaked upon the care home sector and the country as a whole. It is certain there will be a lot of shifting the blame for what went wrong.
It seems odd that it is only a few short weeks since many people have been outside their homes, along with their neighbours, clapping care workers and the NHS for their selfless contribution to keeping the country safer. Front-line “keyworkers” who put themselves at risk (and their families) to care for others. And, as we now know, they did that because people with COVID-19 were discharged from hospitals into care homes. They were expected to manage with no clear guidance, inadequate supplies of PPE and with no proper testing or tracing system in place. Care homes were effectively left high and dry to cope as best they could when the pandemic surged.
There have been plenty of reports of heroic tales of care staff moving into care homes and of the countless personal sacrifices that become the response when the care sector faces such a crisis. Staff in care homes going ‘the extra mile’, working extra shifts, not having days off or taking holiday due. Outstanding care homes quietly getting on with supporting and protecting people.
Of course, COVID-19 and the way this Government has chosen to deal with it, hit the care home sector at a time when it had already experienced years of austerity through local authority cuts and the underfunding had contributed to a staff recruitment crisis well known to the Government. To use a hackneyed cliché “a perfect storm”!
The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) comment is spot on:
“It is outrageous that, even before the pandemic has passed, the Government is blaming care homes for what have been its own failures.”
Whatever happened to recent assertions by the Government that it would sort out the future of social care once and for all? Where is the leadership for a new vision of social care, properly funded, community-oriented, robustly regulated, and fully trained? A future upon which so many rely!