Asking Rhondda Cynon Taf Council to distribute their share of the £40 million rescue package for Welsh care homes and home care companies is like putting a “fox in charge of the hen house”, according to a social care leader.
According to Care Forum Wales chair Mario Kreft MBE, the financial aid announced by Welsh Health Minister was “welcome” but it wasn’t enough and they are not confident it will all reach the front line with local government in charge.
The Welsh Government say the funding will help meet the increased costs of basic PPE, food, staffing costs and ICT, which are being incurred by adult social services.
It comes from the £1.1bn fighting fund created to support public services to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Wales.
Mr Kreft said the emergency funding to tackle the coronavirus crisis should be administered centrally and be based on the number of a care home’s registered beds and the number of commissioned in domiciliary care.
To simplify the process there should be a supplementary amount paid per resident with a higher figure for those with more complex needs who required nursing care.
In addition, he also urged the Welsh Government fund an increase of care workers’ pay to at least £10 an hour as is happening in Devon.
Mr Kreft said: “We welcome the announcement by the Health Minister because it’s a step in the right direction but as ever the devil will be in the detail.
“As we see the coronavirus carnage rolling out, it is clear that we are going to need a lot more than £40 million. This is about saving as many lives as possible.
“If care homes are going to survive, we need a lot more than is being promised.
“The idea that this is anything more than a first instalment would be met with disbelief by a sector that’s on its knees as a result of 24 years of neglect.
“Councils haven’t even implemented this year’s fee increases – and in some places we don’t even know what the new rates are even though we are having to pay staff an extra 7.5 per cent in many cases.
“We also need assurances that domiciliary care is also going to be supported with a supplement based on to commissioned hours of support for vulnerable people living at home.
“We are hugely concerned about the decision to use the channels of local authorities to distribute this extra funding because of the track record of decision-making by the 22 Welsh locals authorities.
“Local government has some brilliant officers but there are very few councils that understand and support the private care sector.
“With a few honourable exceptions, we know from bitter experience over a generation that our treatment by local councils has at best been inconsistent and has at worst sought to damage the sector which was already in a terribly fragile state.
“We believe this announcement should have been made a month ago because, having seen what’s happening in Europe, it’s been clear that this tsunami is inexorably heading in our direction.
“We’re now looking anxiously over the border and we are already tragically seeing an alarming increase in the number of care home residents dying after contracting Covid-19. Sadly, we are already seeing deaths in Welsh care homes.
“It’s incredibly difficult, almost impossible, where you have members of staff who are asymptomatic who could be carrying this terrible disease and there is no way of knowing.
“We’ve been calling for more personal protective equipment, we’ve been calling for testing and we’ve been calling for support at the front line.
“Placing this responsibility on local authorities is the wrong thing to do because we know they are not well-disposed towards independent providers because they do not recognise the value of our staff.
“They way they set fees has put downward pressure on the pay of staff across Wales which is why we are also calling for the voluntary living wage to be paid to all staff, as is happening in Scotland.
“Care Forum Wales has been calling for staff remuneration to be increased for many weeks as part of our campaign to shield social care and save lives.
“We believe it’s absolutely vital that at long last we start to value these essential workers who are on the front line.
“It’s absolutely the right time to increase still further to sector which was chronically underfunded and fragile before the coronavirus nightmare began.
“The other issue is how health boards are going to provide more support in nursing homes. We’re calling on the Minister to make an immediate decision on how we get those resources to the 10,000 vulnerable people in care homes and nursing homes, people who are hugely at risk.
“The procurement of services by health boards has been equally distressing to the sector.
“Let’s not put the fox in charge of the chickens, let’s make sure we are doing everything we can to shield social care from the this huge surge of coronavirus coming towards us.
“We’ve been saying for some time that people working in the sector feel abandoned and that we are being treated like collateral damage. It doesn’t need to be like this.”
Mr Gething said: “Social care plays a vital role in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Wales and the health service. This work is more important than ever. This additional funding will support the extra costs adult social care services are now facing.
“The Welsh Government has been working with local authorities and other partners to identify the additional resources needed to meet the extra demands on adult social care services. We will review this allocation and potentially make further money available if needed in the future.
“The social care workforce is on the front line of this huge effort to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and we are committed to supporting every single person do their job.
“Every one of us in Wales owes them a debt of gratitude. I want to personally thank our social care workforce for their fantastic efforts in protecting the public.”