We are in a war to fight an invisible killer. It is time the 750,000 homecare workforce get the resources and respect that they deserve to support the most vulnerable in society and to help us relieve the pressures on the NHS.
As a nation, we need to recognise the massive contribution that homecare workers make to society and the essential role they play in preventing people from being admitted to hospital and reducing the pressure on the NHS.
We have a duty of care to our employees and a duty of care to the people we support in the community, the majority of whom are most at risk either due to their age and/or underlying medical conditions.
The government has provided specific guidance for the homecare sector which has clarified that we should support people who have symptoms or are confirmed cases of COVID-19. We have identified teams of people who are prepared to support in these scenarios which will become commonplace in the days ahead.
The government guidance issued to the homecare sector last Friday stated that we will have access to the influenza stockpile of personal protective equipment to carry out these duties. 5 days later this has still not be made available to us. We need actions, not words. Masks and eye protection in warehouses will not save lives.
We also need urgent testing of COVID-19 for care workers (so we can get people back to work who may be self-isolating but do not have the virus) and to reduce the risk of cross infecting the vulnerable people we visit.
We need to promote live-in care (where a carer lives in your home round the clock) as a way to improve social distancing for the most vulnerable and prevent unnecessary social contact
We need financial support and commissioning bodies to move away from paying per visit (and sometimes per minute) so that we, as providers, can take practical and sensible measures to do what is needed to support the people we care for, our employees and ultimately the nation as a whole to stop the NHS becoming swamped. We need to ensure that where our staff self-isolate, the government supports us to pay them as many live from pay period to pay period with no financial resilience.
We need to build more capacity in our teams and are calling for industry re-deployment in this crisis. There are wide sectors of the population unable to work at present. We need people and would welcome applications from compassionate individuals who can help us support our local communities, and keep the most vulnerable out of hospitals.
We employ the under-appreciated heroes of society… in a sector that has been starved of funding for years.
The perception that homecare is a low skilled job that should only receive low pay is wrong and must change.