The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is creating unique and unprecedented challenges forthe essential services that people depend on. The government’s lockdown restrictions are in place, first and foremost, to relieve the strain on the NHS. For some sectors and services, this means pausing front line activities – but others, such as social care, simply cannot afford to do this.
From self-isolation to social distancing, the impact of coronavirus is changing how critical social care services are being delivered. But it doesn’t get the attention it perhaps needs, which – as Age UK suggests – is because “social care is not well known or well understood by much of the public who have no direct experience of it”.
For many people across the UK, however, social care is very much on the front line.
The risk of working with the vulnerable
For social care workers, helping the most vulnerable members of our society is what the job is all about. This is something that perhaps comes into even greater focus now, with many of the people who depend on social care already suffering from underlying health issues.
In terms of domiciliary care, care workers must still check in with the people they care for. The importance of robust care agency insurance is significant for those on the frontline. But there is a lingering fear that a carer with Covid-19 could unwittingly pass it on to those at greater risk.
That risk factor is particularly high in care and nursing homes – and it has started to feature on the news agenda as the battle against the pandemic goes on. For all the measures that homes have in place, care workers are put under even greater pressure to protect those in their care.
How to protect people who care for those who need it
It isn’t just those who rely on social care who need protecting. The health and well being of the individuals and teams who deliver vital services is also critical. Of course, the significant threat is to the continuation of services if a care worker needs to self-isolate or becomes unwell.
The government has issued advice to care home staff, unpaid carers and other care workers to keep them safe. But it’s also important not to overlook the financial impact of carers who need to self-isolate and can’t live on Statutory Sick Pay alone – if, indeed, they are able to access it.
PPE challenges and concerns
It’s hard to ignore the media reports surrounding one particular aspect of keeping care workers safe during this pandemic. While the government is providing guidance on requirements for the personal protective equipment (PPE), supply has not necessarily matched demand.
Some social care chiefs have labelled the government’s handling of supplying PPE to social care workers as “shambolic”. It goes to highlight the issues being faced in the sector. And if workers can’t get the protection they need, it surely puts those they care for at even higher risk too.