“Critical lack” of PPE and testing has allowed coronavirus to sweep through the care sector – ADASS and unions warn

  • “Spread of coronavirus in care sector likely to have been “underestimated”   
  • “Action more important than words”, government told   

Social care providers and unions have today (Thursday) warned that a “critical lack” of protective equipment and testing has allowed coronavirus to “sweep through” social care.

In a joint statement – signed by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, UNISON, Unite, GMB and TUC – ministers are told that care workers and residents are still being exposed to unnecessary risk.

The care providers and union leaders warn that staff are being forced to risk their lives with care services struggling to get the equipment they need:  

“Social care is facing a crisis without precedent. Problems with supplies of protective equipment and a lack of testing is causing much anxiety amongst employers, staff, and the families of the people they care for. Many care home residents and care workers have already died.

“People who rely on social care are often more vulnerable to catching and dying from Covid-19. Yet a month into this crisis, many care workers are still working without suitable PPE, despite their heightened risk of exposure to the virus and to spreading it.

“A critical lack of PPE and testing of social care staff and service users is putting them at unnecessary risk of exposure – and means we are almost certainly underestimating how far the virus has spread.

The care providers and union leaders say that without urgent action the virus will continue to devastate the sector:  

“When patients with Covid-19 are rapidly discharged from hospitals to care homes to free up NHS beds, it risks spreading the virus to care homes and putting staff and residents in danger.

“We are pleased that the government has at last published its strategy for social care. But it needs to go further and action will be more important than words.

“Amidst growing evidence that Covid-19 is sweeping through social care with devastating results, we call on the Government to step up the fight against Covid-19 by:

  • Publishing a national procurement and distribution strategy for PPE that includes the social care sector, so that care homes and social care providers aren’t left to source their own PPE amidst global shortages and inflated prices.

  • Setting a clear deadline for when all care workers, clients, personal assistants and residents who need it will have access to testing.

  • Stopping the rapid discharging of Covid-19 patients to care homes unless there are key checks about safety

  • Fully involving the social care workforce and its unions and employers in responding to the crisis.

The care providers and union leaders say ministers must “learn the lessons” from the crisis and provide better funding for social care in the future:   

“Carers, local government, providers, regulators and civil servants are working tirelessly to respond to the crisis. But social care has been the poorer cousin of the NHS for too long. This pandemic is showing just how essential this largely female workforce is.

“Social care workers look after us all. Our parents, our grandparents, our partners, siblings and adult disabled children. Their work has long been undervalued, with services underfunded, staff often on the minimum wage or zero hours contracts and 122,000 vacancies in the sector.

“When this dreadful pandemic eases the Government must learn vital lessons about the failings of a social care system based on low pay and insecure work and put in place proper funding and a long-term plan for social care as soon as possible.”

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