Social care staff and service users deserve better than this mess

When Covid-19 struck we quickly turned our attention to the social care sector.

It doesn’t take any great intellect or foresight to realise that when you’re faced with a virus that hits the elderly and vulnerable hardest, you need to do everything possible to make care homes and domiciliary care safe.

Needless to say this hasn’t happened. Hospitals rushed covid-positive patients out of wards and into homes where they passed the virus on to their fellow residents. Care workers were denied enough personal protective equipment or sick pay to stop the spread.

It’s perhaps easier to understand – if not forgive – the mistakes made in the chaotic early days of the pandemic.

But it’s quite galling that, after months of restrictions and two national lockdowns, a tenth of care workers in our region are still not getting regular testing.

It’s all the more galling that this was supposed to be achieved “next week” on 3 July. That’s more than five months to get this right. We can only guess at how many lives have been lost as a result.

And it’s not just on testing that care providers are continuing to fail those they’re charged with looking after.

We know of care providers that are refusing to pay staff to shield if they have suspected Covid symptoms and tests come back negative. In other words, staff are being told to keep going to work and risk infecting people until they know for sure they’re carrying the virus.

It’s further grim proof that we need radical change in the care sector. We need an end to poverty wages. We need real standards of employment. We need real funding to go to staff on the frontline rather than into the pockets of shareholders.

UNISON’s demands for a national care service take us away from the anarchy of the current system towards one that works for staff, residents and the wider public.

Please keep talking to your friends and coworkers about the need for change. Together we can convince politicians and the government that we can’t go back to normal in social care.