Pandemic Causes Major Damage To Sussex’s Care Workers
Words by Ciaran Coyle
According to the Office for National Statistics, Social Care Workers in the UK were among the highest mortality rates by occupation during the Coronavirus Pandemic. With this in mind, questions have been raised over whether the Government support provided to the care sector has been sub-standard.
Whilst the Government have provided some support to care workers during this time when they announced they would pledge £600 million to support those who provide social care through what they called the ‘adult social care infection control fund’, The announcement was made on May 13, two months after they initially announced they would be giving £1.3 Billion to NHS and social care workers.
However, despite government packages, many care workers across the UK felt short changed in terms of the help they were supposed to be receiving. An article from ‘The Health Foundation’ written back in January of this year, detailed some of the ways in which the government had fallen short in the help they were promising to provide carers across the whole of the UK.
The article claimed the government was “slow to implement policies (for example to ensure staff had access to enough PPE and comprehensive testing) to protect the sector.” The article also pointed out the ‘Covid-19 Winter Plan’ that was unveiled by the Government to help tackle issues thrown up by the Pandemic within Adult Social care “Offered no additional financial support for staff.”
We reached out to the Government’s department of health and Social Care for a comment or a statement on some of the complaints made about their announced plans but they declined the invitation to comment.
‘Care For The Carers’ is an independent charity based in East-Sussex which provides support and guidance for unpaid carers within the region. Figures from their website say that there are an estimated ‘68,229 unpaid carers in East-Sussex’ with the highest number coming in Wealden where an estimated ‘19,081’ people provide unpaid care to someone who requires it.
During the Pandemic they have been attempting to help those carers who’s mental health has been badly affected by the circumstances caused by the restrictions put in place by the government by holding ‘virtual carer groups.’
The charity provides carers will a wide range of different groups depending on their needs including ‘Carers Wellbeing Groups’ as well as ‘Mental Health Carers Support Groups’ and ‘Young Adult Carers Groups’ in which are run by carer support workers and support young carers aged between 17-25 in East-Sussex.
When asking a representative of the charity about they felt that carers had been given the support needed from the Government during this pandemic, they declined to comment. On their website they say that according to national statistics ‘Carers save the economy £132 Billion a year’ with an average of £19,336 per carer which suggests a big difference between the amount of money put in by the government to support carers and the amount saved by their work.
In terms of paid carers, whilst they have received money from the Government to support their work, some workers have said that despite the money put in by government their experience within the work place environment has not only not improved but has worsened since the start of the pandemic.
A study conducted by the Person Social Services Reasearch Unit (PSSRU) has stated that out of 296 care workers within the Uk, “four-fifths (80%) had increased their workload while over half increased their working hours.” Researcher, Shereen Hussein from the University of Kent suggested in the article that “the difference is likely to be attributed to staff covering for other workers who had to self-isolate” or to “train new volunteers” who had entered the care sector when the Government pushed for more volunteers in the sector at the start of the pandemic.
A further study by the European Journal of Psychotraumatology also seemed to uncover more information about how frontline social care workers have had their mental health badly affected by the circumstances of the pandemic. Written in the Brighton Argus, the study which was conducted between May 27 and July 2020 showed that looking at the data on 1194 social and healthcare workers in the UK, “58% of workers were deemed to have a mental health problem”.
However, whilst there is evidence to suggest that carers have struggled throughout the pandemic, the vaccination drive which began in December of last year has meant that carers have been able to perform their duties with less danger of passing on the virus to the people they give care to.
In press release from Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers Uk, she said “being vaccinated will bring a huge sense of relief for many carers, having carefully managed the risk to the virus themselves and to their older disabled relatives for almost a year.”
Whilst it have been demonstrated that there are care workers who are not satisfied with the support they have received from the government during this pandemic, many, such as Helen Walker will feel as if there is some light and the end of the tunnel for care workers who have suffered throughout the pandemic that their jobs will get easier as restrictions ease and normality returns for the majority of us in a few months’ time.
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Care for the Carers (2021) “ About Care for the Carers” [Online] Available: https://www.cftc.org.uk/about-care-for-the-carers/ [Date Accessed 21st April 2021]
Care for the Carers (2021) “Carers Groups” [Online] Available: https://www.cftc.org.uk/help-and-advice/how-we-can-help/carers-groups/ [Date Accessed April 20th 2021]
Department of Health and Social Care (2021) “Coronavirus (COVID-19): care home support package” [Online] Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-care-homes/coronavirus-covid-19-care-home-support-package [Date Accessed 20th April 2021]
Doody, K (2021) “1 in 5 health and social care staff suffered PTSD since start of Covid pandemic” The Brighton Argus [Online] Available: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/19152173.1-5-health-social-care-staff-suffered-ptsd-since-start-covid-pandemic/ [Date Accessed April 22nd 2021]
Hussein, S (2021) “The Impact of COVID-19 on social care workers’ workload, wellbeing and ability to provide care safely: Findings from the UK” [Online] Available: https://www.pssru.ac.uk/blog/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-social-care-workers-workload/ [Date Accessed April 21 2021]
Office for National Statistics (2020) “Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, before and during lockdown, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 30 June 2020” [Online] Available: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationbeforeandduringlockdownenglandandwales/deathsregisteredbetween9marchand30jun2020 [Accessed on 20th April 2021]
Shembavnekar, N Allen, L Idriss, O (2021) “How is COVID-19 impacting people working in adult social care?” The Health Foundation [Online] Available: https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/how-is-covid-19-impacting-people-working-in-adult-social-care [Date Accessed April 21st 2021]
Walker, H (2021) “Carers UK responds to NHS England’s Standard Operating Procedure on unpaid carers” [Online] Available: https://www.carersuk.org/northernireland/how-you-can-help-carersni/join-carers-ni/23-news-campaigns/press-releases/6719-carers-uk-responds-to-nhs-england-s-standard-operating-procedure-on-unpaid-carers [Date Accessed 21st April 2021]