The pandemic has had a devastating impact on social care and the people who rely on it. At Sense, our Forgotten Families campaign has revealed that a third (34%) of families with a disabled loved one still have not had any care or support reinstated since lockdown has been lifted. The Government has received considerable criticism from the press and Parliament for how it has handled support for social care. As a result, Government has released a new plan for the winter which sets out how social care will get the funding and resources it needs. What does this mean for Sense and the people we support?
The Social Care Winter Plan has been released alongside a report from the Social Care Taskforce. The Social Care Taskforce was formed by the Department of Health and Social Care to examine the impact of Covid-19 on social care since lockdown began. Sense contributed to the work of the Taskforce, the report and recommendations. The Social Care Taskforce has fed into the Government Winter Plan for Covid-19 and social care. The Winter Plan now looks ahead to the future and how social care can support people over the coming months.
There are some good commitments in the Winter Care Plan, including:
- Free PPE for some social care services
- £546 million Infection Control Fund
- Free Flu Vaccinations for social care service users and care staff
In addition to the above, the Winter Care Plan recognises the impact of Covid-19 on people with learning disabilities and or autism, and the health inequalities they’ve experienced. This is important as a lot of the Government attention and support for social care so far has been focused on Care Homes and older people. Many working age disabled people have felt forgotten, and this is why we launched our Forgotten Families campaign. Through the campaign, we’ve been calling for government to recognize the lack of support for disabled adults and their families throughout the pandemic and to reintroduce services. Without the services and support they need, 62% of the families and carers Sense surveyed have taken on additional caring responsibilities during the pandemic. This is having an impact on wellbeing, with families feeling isolated, and disabled people not having access to enriching activities, communication support or vital therapies.
Vital first steps
Whilst the initial lockdown period has ended, there are still big challenges for respite and community social care services. Current restrictions like social distancing, as well as the additional costs of running services safely, means that a lot of day centres and community based support cannot fully re-open. This is why it’s really good to see the Winter Care Plan encouraging Local Authorities to reopen these services and support alternative delivery or provision where they can’t fully reopen. This is a vital first step towards many disabled people and their families getting much needed care and support.
However, we need further information about how Government will specifically support community social care services, disabled people and unpaid family carers. For example, it is unclear how social care services like day centres will access the free PPE. Furthermore, community based social care services cannot access financial support from the Infection Control Fund. The Social Care Taskforce report recognises many of these issues and calls for Government to support all social care services and unpaid carers. The Taskforce recommendations echo the calls of our campaign, including supporting disabled people and their families as well as more accessible information about changes to care services.
Without more support, resources and funding, many community based social care services will not be able to support everyone who needs them. Increasing pressure on family carers is having an impact on health and wellbeing, and could result in more complex needs developing. This is why our Forgotten Families campaign is calling on Government to create a specific and detailed action plan for social care services in the community, especially those supporting disabled people and their families.
We can only hope that the Winter Care Plan is a first step, and that the Government will listen to more of the Social Care Taskforce recommendations as well as organisations like Sense to make sure that no one is left without the care and support they need.