When we think about the fight against Coronavirus, we rightfully think about the hard work and dedication of our exceptional frontline NHS workers. We are thankful for their service. We clap for them on Thursdays – and now, we also clap for our amazing carers and other essential key workers.
Until very recently, our carers felt excluded from Coronavirus conversations. Those who work in our care homes are also on the frontline as they work tirelessly to look after our loved ones in incredibly difficult circumstances. Social distancing measures have quite rightly closed our care homes to visitors, but our efforts to protect the most vulnerable from the virus have left staff with many confused and scared residents, who have now begun to contract Coronavirus on an increasingly large scale.
Care workers are no strangers to working in difficult circumstances. Like NHS Trusts across the country, our care homes have been severely underfunded. The Coronavirus crisis has revealed what many of us have known for years and that is that our social care sector is in desperate need of investment. Our care workers deserve a Living Wage. Our loved ones deserve to receive the best care possible.
The work of care home staff is invaluable. Take Kia and Ken, for example. It circulated in the news this week that Kia, a 17 year old care home worker from Preston, surprised one of her residents, 94 year old Ken, with a custom-made cushion of his late wife that he will treasure forever. The relationships formed in our care homes are real and personal and human, and they make their Coronavirus deaths all the more difficult for staff to deal with.
The Local Government Association have called for social care workers to receive reliable and ongoing supplies of PPE, increased Coronavirus testing facilities and greater external support. Our social care workers should not be receiving differential treatment from frontline NHS staff. Many carers are understandably feeling extremely vulnerable right now, given that over 100 of our brilliant health and social care workers are so far thought to have sadly lost their lives to Coronavirus. This needs to stop. Carers need to be protected as they work to care for the most vulnerable in our society.
The crisis in our care homes during this pandemic is clear for all to see. When normal life resumes, and I hope that it will very soon, we need to have some serious conversations about social care and its funding. We simply cannot continue as we were.