MP Matt Western has spoken of his ‘utter frustration’ at the failure at all levels of government to address the crisis within a crisis that is social care and Covid-19.
The Warwick and Leamington MP believes those receiving care as well as those working in social care are not being given the information and support they deserve.
Mr Western was angry after recently sitting through a Warwickshire All Councils’ meeting to discuss the local response to the pandemic, in which social care did not feature on the agenda – even though he had requested it to be.
Afterwards Mr Western wrote to council chiefs to ensure social care was a priority in council communications and planning.
The council has responded to Mr Western’s calls by including social care on the agenda for the next meeting.
The Labour MP said: “Social care should be an absolute priority for county councils, not an afterthought.
“At my insistence, I’m pleased that Warwickshire has now included social care on its weekly agenda. For over a month, it has been clear that the social care sector was a critical concern. In response, I have been working with the council and speaking with individual care homes to help ensure they have the resources they need.
“Social care is funded chiefly through council tax and is the responsibility of the local authority. We must do all we can to protect carers and those they care for through this crisis within a crisis.
“I am unconvinced that the current guidance and strategy with the sector is keeping residents and their carers safe – be it the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or the incoherent approach to isolating cases.
“There seems to be a failure in understanding the needs of the sector, and this is unfortunately illustrated by the recent revelations on the scale of deaths observed in our care homes.
“The public deserve to be given timely and accurate numbers on social care coronavirus cases and deaths. I sense it is far higher than has been declared and we must be told about examples of outbreaks in care homes.
“Whilst we now know the Care Quality Commission will be releasing national data soon, we also need localised data to understand the true scale of the issue locally.
“I’m calling on local authorities to continually prioritise their efforts to supporting care settings and release the data they hold on cases and deaths.
“I will continue to press for improvements in our response to this crisis, particularly in social care settings.”
Monica Fogarty, chief executive at Warwickshire County Council responded to the criticism.
She told the Observer: “Warwickshire County Council is working with Coventry City Council, three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and Public Health England to protect care home residents by providing additional support to care homes across the region during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Alongside CCG care home quality and infection control teams, staff from the council are working hard to coordinate support and mutual aid for care homes as required. This includes supporting with the recruitment and rapid training of care staff for deployment into local care settings, supporting with emergency access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where a care home has limited supply, providing dedicated public health and infection control support to help manage Covid-19 outbreaks and providing financial assistance to homes in relation to any additional costs they incur as a result of the virus.
“The council has established a dedicated website for care providers to streamline communication and ensure providers have access to the latest information and advice.”