When Boris Johnson first became Prime Minister last Summer (although the pandemic months make it feel much longer ago) he came out on his doorstep and said – and I quote – “I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”. We then had a General Election and the Tory manifesto left us none the wiser as to what this “clear plan” was. We’re almost 16 months on from that first speech now and still we haven’t seen this fabled plan.
In the meantime, we have been plunged into the biggest health emergency that this country has seen in any of our lifetimes and carers have been on the frontline. Johnson was out on his doorstep applauding them with the rest of us, but still no plan or clarity. Instead, we sadly saw the Government fail to protect our carers and those they care for in the early months of the pandemic, allowing Covid-positive patients to be discharged into care-homes and failing to provide the necessary PPE to keep staff and residents safe.
As with so much else during this crisis, it has been left to our local councils to step in and show compassion and leadership, and I have been particularly impressed by Labour-led Stockport Council’s action to support carers and care homes.
This has included paying occupational sick pay from the first day of absence, paying holiday, sleep-ins and travel-time at the full hourly rate and ending the use of zero hour contracts to give more certainty to staff.
Furthermore, 100% of Stockport care home staff have received Covid-19 training and care homes have been given support and funding to keep employees at the appropriate rate, procure PPE and other medical supplies. The Council has also passed on approximately £9 million to care providers and donated tablets to care homes to help residents keep in touch with family and friends.
The Ethical Care Charter manifesto pledge that Stockport Labour was elected on also means that Stockport Council provides an uplift to care providers, making sure care workers received the Real Living Wage.
All of this is taking place in the context of over a decade of cuts to local government budgets. At the start of this crisis, the Tory Local Government Secretary told councils to spend whatever it takes to deal with the crisis, but he has since kept quiet and failed to provide the funding – Croydon Council declared bankruptcy just this week and sadly more may follow.
With this in mind, I’m particularly grateful to Stockport Council (and particularly Cllr Jude Wells, the Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Health) for doing so much for our brilliant care workers – and those they care for – at such a difficult time.