Ministers must not let social care standards slip as we fight to stop the coronavirus
The Coronavirus Bill says some duties on social care providers will be loosened to help them meet urgent demand.
As MPs consider the Coronavirus Bill, Lib Dem Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson says social care providers need guaranteed resources and more reassurance on standards
The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. It puts all of us at risk, but especially the most vulnerable in our communities. Thousands of families will face financial hardship. Everyone is rightly worried about their loved ones.
Our priority must be protecting the most vulnerable in our society and the reality is that shortages in the social care workforce have already been a problem long before we faced this pandemic. There are millions of elderly and people living with disabilities of all ages - some of those most vulnerable to coronavirus - who rely on the support of care workers.
Having examined the Government’s emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, I am concerned that the Government’s plans will expose the country to a reduction in minimum standards in social care. This could put the elderly and the disabled (adults and children) at serious risk.
Ministers need to prepare for the worst when the social care sector is badly hit, but also commit to maintaining current standards as a priority. Lower standards should not become the new norm in an already overstretched social care system.
That is why Liberal Democrats have put down amendments to the Government’s emergency legislation and are seeking cross-party support for our proposals to require the Government to maintain social care standards in the face of the coronavirus threat.
We are urging the Government to make explicit how they will guarantee continued social care in the coming weeks and months. Just look at efforts to encourage retired NHS doctors and nurses to re-join the health service, or indeed offering final year medical students and student nurses the chance to take temporary, fully paid roles.
These are welcome steps, but we must also see similar action for the social care sector.
We are also calling for Ministers to ensure those local authorities with capacity to provide care to the current minimum standard are obligated to do so and have the proper emergency resources to do so. This means urgent additional central government support on top of last week’s announcement.
We want to thank all frontline staff from the bottom of our hearts for going above and beyond. It is our duty to ensure they have the protection they need to look after all of us and our loved ones, both through routine testing and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Liberal Democrats will support efforts to keep people healthy and safe, and we have full confidence in the Chief Medical Officer. We will also ask detailed questions and hold the Government to account to ensure every available resource is utilised to protect jobs, our social care sector and those in need.
While we do not know what the future hold, the Liberal Democrats are stepping up and doing everything we can to support our communities during the crisis.