Social care honours colleagues lost to Covid

Day of remembrance and reflection held to pay tribute to over 900 staff in England who have died from the disease

Flaming candles at the funeral ceremony indoor
Photo: castenoid/Adobe Stock

The social care sector today honours the more than 900 staff who lost their lives to Covid-19.

Twenty one sector bodies have organised a day of remembrance and reflection to pay tribute to social care workers who died from the disease during the course of the pandemic.

Workforce development body Skills for Care said an estimated 922 social care workers died from Covid between the start of the pandemic and May 2021.

It said today was “a day when we can say a simple thank you to all those social care workers who provided care and support during these tough times, for us all to reflect on what everybody working together has achieved, and to pay tribute to those we have sadly lost”.

Sector leaders, including care minister Gillian Keegan, British Association of Social Workers England director Maris Stratulis, National Care Association chair Nadra Ahmed and Homecare Association chief executive Jane Townson will address a memorial event this morning, at which a memorial poem will be read.

The organisers have set up an online memorial wall to enable people to pay tribute to care workers who have died from Covid, along with a thank you wall, on which people can post messages of gratitude for social care’s role during the pandemic. Both are hosted on the Care Workers’ Charity website.

‘A catalyst for change’

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said the day should be a catalyst for change for social care workers, in the context of low pay and “chronic staffing shortages”.

“It’s important everyone remembers and pays their respects. But the best tribute to those who died would be to fix the broken social care system.

“Most care staff are still paid less than the real living wage, frequently do extra shifts because of chronic staffing shortages and get no sick pay.

“This memorial day should be a catalyst for changing social care into a high-quality service. Care should be provided by well-supported workers who’re paid fairly and treated like human beings, not numbers on a spreadsheet.”

Rising cases and funding concerns

The day comes with rising Covid case numbers and hospital admissions causing concern among sector heads.

The 7-day average of cases in the UK rose from 33,500 on 25 February to 62,236 on 8 March, while the 7-day average of hospital admissions increased from 1,140 on 20 February to 1,578 on 9 March – though the number of patients on ventilators and deaths from Covid are still falling.

Norfolk council executive director of adult social services James Bullion, who paid tribute to staff who had lost their lives at today’s event, separately expressed concerns about the rising case numbers and their impact on social care on Twitter earlier this week.

There are also concerns about the planned ending, on 31 March, of funding designed to help adult social care manage the impact of Covid and wider pressures. These include:

Independent care providers’ body Care England said this week that the government urgently needed to confirm whether funding would be continuing into the new financial year so that organisations can plan their services and to support fee negotiations with council and NHS commissioners.

‘An enormity of financial and emotional challenges’

Chief executive Martin Green warned about the impact of stopping the funds: “If the Covid-19 support funds are to end, along with the discontinuation of free asymptomatic testing for residents, staff and visitors, care providers will face an enormity of financial and emotional challenges which can be avoided by government intervention.

“Care home occupancy levels are still 5-10% below pre-pandemic levels, [and] workforce attrition and vacancies remain over 30% and 10%, respectively, causing a further devastating financial burden onto already stretched care home providers.”

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