Here in Oxford, our many care homes are doing their utmost to protect and care for their vulnerable residents, with their staff working round the clock to look after residents. However, this government’s delayed response to the clearly emerging crisis in care homes has failed staff, residents, and families — many of whom have now tragically lost loved ones to this disease.
I have been contacted by multiple care homes, and family members of residents, who have been trying to access testing for their residents, especially following the government announcements about more widespread testing. I am aware that last week, local care homes expressed their worries about this in the Oxford Mail, with some care-home owners reporting that they had been told widespread testing was currently not accessible at all. It is also crucial that care workers can access testing themselves. While I am pleased that we now have a testing centre here in Oxford, I am very concerned to hear of reports that social care workers have been struggling to access a test. The government must listen to these worries, and urgently ensure that care homes and care workers can access the testing they need. At a local level, I have been working closely with care homes to support them in any way that I can, liaising with bodies like the CQC and Public Health England. Nationally, my colleagues, Liz Kendall and Jonathan Ashworth, have been pushing the government hard on their response to the virus in the care sector, and I will continue to support their crucial work in holding the government to account, and to do better.
It is imperative that all of our workers are protected, and that we stop the spread of the virus within care homes. I have been pushing the government to ensure that when they are asking people to go back to work, they are working with unions and businesses to make sure that work is a safe place to be – this must also be the case for carers already at work. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics has reported that, tragically, carers are twice as likely as the general population to die of coronavirus related causes. Social care providers did not get the protective equipment they need quickly enough. I can help locally with individual cases to ensure PPE gets to the frontline but the government must do more.
Ministers were too slow to act on outbreaks in care homes, and I and the Labour party will continue to push on these issues. Please pass any concerns to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.