The new Covid-19 Adult Social Care Strategy is welcome, but there is more to do

15 April 2020

The Social Care Institute for Care (SCIE), welcomes the publication of the COVID-19: Adult Social Care Strategy. In particular, SCIE is delighted as part of the Action Plan to have been asked to provide resources to to help bring partners together virtually to share best practice in real time. We have also been asked to develop good practice resources and support for social care professionals, including e-learning on safeguarding, infection control, and support to family carers, and guidance on supporting people with learning disabilities, support to Safeguarding Adults Boards, and good commissioning practice during the pandemic, among others.

SCIE has been increasingly concerned by the growing pressure on an already fragile social care system, and this publication today sets out an essential programme of actions to enable the sector to carry on supporting the most frail and vulnerable in our society.

There has been a tendency in recent Government communications, to only see social care through the lens of how it supports older people leaving hospital, and we welcome the broad focus of this paper, to include “people with disabilities and long-term conditions, as well as people with learning disabilities, autism and those in need of support to maintain good mental health.”

More specifically, we welcome the Government’s commitment to:

Personnel Protective Equipment

Dramatically increase the distribution of Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) to care workers across the sector. The lack of PPE has been a huge concern for people providing direct care, and the launch of a thoroughgoing plan to greatly increase the supplies of PPE is very welcome, if overdue.

Testing - care workers

ramp up of the testing of care workers, which lags behind the testing of NHS staff, in order to support those with symptoms or with family members with symptoms of Covid-19 return to work as soon as it is safe to do so.

Workforce

Support the sector to grow, investing in a re-launched recruitment strategy and a new platform to aid rapid recruitment. However, we remain concerned that further commitments to address the low pay and poor conditions experienced by many care workers, these efforts will have limited impact.

Training

Making training available through Skills for Care, to support people with the skills they need to support people through this crisis. SCIE, an endorsed training provider to many thousand care workers each year, will also be making free digital training available, repurposed to be relevant to Covid-19, on key topics such as safeguarding, MCA and person-centred care.

Whilst we recognise that this is a short paper, written at pace, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight several areas where we feel greater detail and clear actions are required.

Safeguarding Adults

We are already hearing from our networks that there are growing concerns about the safeguarding of vulnerable adults during this period. In lockdown situations, unsafe circumstances for people can become exacerbated, and we are picking up already that some people are falling victims to new forms of financial abuse. In our view, the sector needs more support to help it understand how risks are evolving and how we best respond. Longer term, advice on the role of Safeguarding Adults Boards, and safeguarding adult reviews and how learning is shared across systems, will be needed. SCIE is the leading authority on safeguarding and has already published revised guidance, but stands ready to provide the sector with further guidance and support.

Supporting people with learning disabilities

The Strategy recognises that approaches to supporting people with learning disabilities will need to be tailored, and we are pleased that SCIE has been asked to produce guidance for people working with adults with learning disabilities and autism. People with learning disabilities, many of whom have additional complex health care needs, will be particularly vulnerable during this period. Many family carers who provide vital care and support to those with learning disabilities, will lack access to respite, good information, advice and advocacy. We urge the Government to establish a national review group - comprising policy leads from DHSC, NHS England and other key agencies, such as DWP, along with sector organisations and people with learning disabilities, to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on people with learning disabilities and recommend coordinated actions.

Looking to the future

Whilst we acknowledge that the immediate focus of efforts is on mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic, we should not ignore the need for a plan for long term reform. Now is the time to make rapid progress to secure the long-awaited reform of our social care services: how they are funded, at what level they funded and the outcomes they achieve. This public policy territory has been well explored and the options are well documented both by independent think tanks and Parliamentary Committees. Post Covid-19 we will undoubtedly need to find very different ways to commission and deliver social care. We would urge the Government to learn from SCIE, Think Local Act Personal and Shared Lives Plus’s Social Care Innovation Network, which is exploring ways to scale up innovative models of care.

Kathryn Smith, incoming Chief Executive of SCIE says:

It is indeed welcome to see this strategy published, for too long social care appears to have been an afterthought, putting thousands of potentially vulnerable people at risk, even more so during this COVID 19 crisis. This strategy when turned into action will start to address that balance, and will hopefully lay the foundations for future much needed reform. I look forward to supporting SCIE to play its part in the recovery and reform of social care starting with this strategy.

SCIE, Chair and former Care Minister, Paul Burstow, says:

The growing death toll amongst social care workers and those they care for is deeply distressing. It demands a determined effort to ensure that social care now gets everything it needs to carry on caring. The Government’s strategy is an overdue recognition that social care is on the front line battling to keep the most vulnerable and frail safe from Covid-19. A fitting legacy of the pandemic would be that finally after decades of delay the time has come for reforming our social care system, not for patching.

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