I have been disturbed by reports from home care workers who have told me that they still do not have access to adequate PPE to protect themselves and others from coronavirus.
There has, rightly, been a lot of focus on care homes and the staff that work in residential setting but very little focus on homecare workers – the tens of thousands of people who go into peoples homes every day to provide them with care.
This, overwhelmingly low-paid and female, workforce is so often ignored and yet they are doing such valuable work.
Without appropriate protective equipment, these workers are not only in danger of becoming infected themselves but may also inadvertently pass on the virus to people who, because of their age or underlying health conditions, are particularly at risk.
The Office for National Statistics reported that the deaths of 3,161 people using home care in England were notified to the Care Quality Commission from 10 April to 8 May, compared with an average of 1,171 over the same period in the previous three years.
However, these figures only cover deaths that must be reported to the regulator because they occurred while services were being delivered or were potentially a result of their delivery. Furthermore, the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) does not hold information on deaths in the home care system as providers are not legally required to notify CIW of deaths. We therefore do not have a full or reliable picture of the deaths caused by coronavirus in the social care system.
While there has rightly been a focus on deaths in care homes, there also needs to be regular and systematic reporting of deaths in individuals’ homes. Only then can we understand the scale of the problem.
And, of course, the government must urgently ensure that all social care workers – whether they work in care homes or in the community – have the PPE and testing they need.
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