Labour’s new shadow social care minister has pledged to challenge her opposite number over the government’s continuing failure to publish guidance that would help disabled people protect themselves during the coronavirus crisis.
Liz Kendall, who was appointed to the role this month by Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, told Disability News Service there had been a “complete failure” to address the concerns of disabled people, including those on direct payments, who employ personal assistants (PAs) to provide their care and support.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed yet again this week to publish guidance for disabled people who use direct payments and employ PAs on how to protect themselves and their staff during the pandemic.
An estimated 70,000 disabled people employ PAs through direct payments.
Kendall (pictured, left), who is due to speak to the government’s under-fire social care minister Helen Whately today (Thursday), said: “I am speaking to Helen Whately (right) tomorrow and I am raising this issue, that people desperately need guidance and support.
“In too many parts of the country, that is not happening.
“Clear guidance is clearly desperately needed. I will absolutely press Helen about this tomorrow.”
It is now a month-and-a-half since DHSC published its first COVID-19 action plan on 3 March and tomorrow it will be five weeks since ministers produced guidance for the wider social care sector, which was aimed at service-providers in the residential care, supported living and home care sectors, but not at disabled people who employ their own PAs.
Two weeks ago, a DHSC spokesperson said that guidance for disabled people who use direct payments would be published “shortly”.
Last night, DHSC published its new social care action plan, but it made only fleeting reference to disabled people receiving direct payments and the employment of PAs, although it suggested again that it would “shortly publish guidance setting out further details”.
Last week, Kendall wrote to the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, and raised with him the problems faced by employers of PAs in securing personal protective equipment (PPE, see separate story).
She told him that it was “increasingly clear that the lack of PPE and testing is a widespread problem throughout the care sector, affecting home care staff and Personal Assistants employed via Direct Payments as well as carers in residential homes”.
She said people who use direct payments were finding supplies of PPE were either poor quality or unavailable, and she added: “They then face the impossible decision of whether to go without essential care and support until PPE can eventually be sourced.”
DHSC had failed by noon today (Thursday) to comment on its continuing failure to produce guidance for disabled people who employ their own PAs.
*Links to sources of information and support during the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
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