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Care sector needs “voice” at the top table says Plaid Cymru

PLAID Cymru is calling for greater accountability for the care sector at Welsh Government level.

There should be an explicit “voice” for the care sector within Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru has said. This call is supported by a care homeowner who lost 21 residents to COVID-19, and who says that the care service structure is “palpably ineffective, convoluted and wasteful.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Transformation of Public Services and the Future, Delyth Jewell MS, said the needs of the care sector had been “ignored” for far too long and called for the sector to now have a “voice at the table” with greater Ministerial responsibility for social care.

These calls are echoed by Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, who has called for parity between the health and social care sectors.

Noting that the “terrible cost” to Welsh care homes had been well publicised throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – from the accessibility of PPE for care workers in the early stages, to care homes having to accept untested patients from hospital – the consequence says Ms Jewell, was “nothing short of a national scandal.”

The Shadow Minister said that the problem lies with “accountability” for the care sector as a whole. With some care homes under private ownership and others under the control of local authorities, Ms Jewell says that during the crisis many care home managers have told her that “they weren’t sure who to turn to for advice.”

As a result, care home managers do not have a formal route into government decision making and – crucially – this means that accountability for the sector remains fragmented.

Plaid Cymru is calling for accountability for the sector to be clarified through a named official in government having lead responsibility for ensuring that the voice of the care sector is amplified, and for there to be greater political accountability. Under the current arrangement, the person in charge of social care is a deputy minister.

Delyth Jewell MS said:

“During the pandemic, many care home managers told me that they weren’t sure who to turn to for advice on testing or PPE and the needs of care homes were neglected. The most appalling example of this neglect came when more than 1,000 asymptomatic residents were discharged from hospital without tests.

“The voices of care home residents and managers were not listened to and the most vulnerable in our society paid the price.

“In the long term, Plaid Cymru has laid out its plans to unify health and social care, which will radically address the chronic problems in social care. In the meantime, the Labour Welsh Government must do something to ensure that the voice of the care sector is heard loudly and clearly inside the government itself. Creation of a named official, who has lead responsibility for the care sector, will inject accountability into the heart of government. It is telling that social care is under the charge of a Deputy Minister – there must be greater political accountability for this important sector.

“The scandal seen in our care homes must never happen again.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS added:

“This pandemic has shown clearly that the care sector has been neglected for too long. I want to give parity to those two sectors – health and care – and indeed Plaid Cymru wants to establish a true National Health AND Care Service for Wales.

“But the Government should immediately look to fill the gap that exists whereby care lacks the voice it needs at the heart of Government administration. Our NHS Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer have been prominent figures over these past few months. We need someone of equivalent status whose job it is to ensure that the care sector isn’t in any way forgotten again.”

Brian Rosenberg, Chairman of Tregwilym Lodge Ltd said: 

“It is a fact that the current structure and system of delivering the Care Budget and the delivery of Care Services to some of the most vulnerable members of the community has been utterly broken for a long time.

“However the arrival of Covid-19 this year exposed in a horrific way the utter failure of the whole cumbersome and clumsy structure currently in operation. Failures in management of PPE, changes in directives from Welsh Government regarding testing, admissions and discharges from hospital and other policies have resulted in many unnecessary COVID-related deaths; 21 in Tregwilym Lodge alone!

“Whilst investment in public sector workers is clearly welcome, it is bitterly disappointing that social care remains overlooked and ignored by the Government. The persistent restrictions on social care funding means that this is by default a largely minimum wage sector. As a sector caring for residents with high levels of complexity and acuity we need a robust career pathway and a voice at the highest level.

“Anyone looking at this structure could see how palpably ineffective, convoluted and wasteful it is.”

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