The Department of Health and Social Care has defended its decision to issue badges for care workers despite undersupplying the sector with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Coronavirus testing kits.
Social care staff will now be identified as essential workers after the health ministry announced its plans to issue them with a ‘badge of honour’.
Health minister Matt Hancock revealed the initiative during yesterday’s daily coronavirus press conference, wearing a replica of the green and while badge with the words ‘CARE’ emblazoned on it.
Despite the kind gesture, social care providers, unions and politicians have come out in droves to criticise the move and called on the government to focus on delivering more testing and vital PPE.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘A badge? Really a badge??’. The union GMB has said now was not the time for ‘a badge’ and ‘a pat’ on the head and instead called for a renewed focus on more testing as it emerged that less than 1,000 care home staff have had access to a coronavirus test kit.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham wrote: ‘Of all the things that long-suffering social care staff in England most need, I would put a badge close to the bottom of the list.’
Hancock said that ‘this badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo.’
He told the Today programme that the badge had ‘practical consequences as well’, including care workers being able to attend priority shopping hours at supermarkets.
Questioned on reports that care home providers will have to buy badges for £1.20, Hancock said he would look into it. He said: ‘Most care providers are private sector organisations whereas the NHS is in the public sector and that sometimes explains some of these apparent differences…’
He continued: ‘But the point I was making is we pay for things differently through a contract in those parts of social care.
‘So it’s a technical difference as opposed to a real difference, but because of the symbolic difference of the badge, I will absolutely look at that point.’
The government has rolled out an online delivery system which will allow social care providers across the country to receive PPE quicker. The government only just broke through an old target of 25,000 tests a day as concerns around its ability to conduct 100,000 tests per day by the end of April continue to mount.
The national death toll from Covid-19 has nearly reached 13,000 with one in five death across England and Wales being reported as caused by the virus. 1,400 have died in care homes.
Hancock told the press conference: ‘At the same time, we’re increasing again PPE supply to social care. We’re creating a supply logistics and distribution network of unprecedented scale.
‘Building on the PPE plan I set out on Friday, over the next three weeks we’ll continue priority drops to the local resilience forums according to local need, while we roll out our new online delivery system for social care settings.’
The government will now also test all symptomatic residents in care.