Matt Hancock’s care worker badge hasn’t exactly gone down well. People have criticised the health secretary’s attempt to acknowledge the social care sector during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But someone decided the badge needed a reworking – and it makes for a damning indictment of the Tories.
Hancock’s care worker badge: controversial
Hancock’s care worker badge has sparked controversy. The Metro reported that people were more concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and what these workers get paid. Moreover, the badge isn’t new. A community interest company (CIC) previously launched it.
What’s worse, as Shelley Asquith pointed out, care workers don’t even get the badge for free – they have to buy it. And when they’re often earning around the minimum wage, that’s a kick in the teeth:
A care worker was asked by @BBCNewsbeat earlier whether she will be buying one of the new CARE badges, she said “No, they are being sold for £8.99 and my wage is only £8.75 an hour”
Says it all..
— Shelly Asquith (@ShellyAsquith) April 16, 2020
So, someone decided to play around with a photo of Hancock holding the care worker badge. And the result is devastatingly appropriate.
“Tory Cuts Kill”
The reworking, by Mark Harrison, is short but to the point:
— paula peters (@paulapeters2) April 16, 2020
The “Tory Cuts Kill” image was from a banner by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). The group was protesting at the 2018 Tory Party conference. As The Canary has documented, disabled people have been subject to what the UN called “grave” and “systematic” human rights violations. So much so that the chair of one UN committee called the situation in the UK a “human catastrophe”.
Claimants of DWP welfare have suffered numerous benefit cuts, the flawed Work Capability Assessment and the closure of the Independent Living Fund. But most critically, thousands upon thousands of people have died on the DWP’s watch.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Tory Cuts Kill badge has taken on new meaning, and not least in the care sector.
Care sector catastrophe
It’s been widely reported that care workers have not got the PPE they need. BBC News noted that one organisation in the sector has also raised concerns about the lack of coronavirus testing, funding, and protection for people who use social care. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) accused the government of leaving social care as an “afterthought”. It also called the Tories’ PPE strategy “shambolic”. But this shambolic afterthought has had devastating consequences.
Care England has estimated that 7,500 people may have already died in care homes due to coronavirus. The Canary reported that this was in contrast to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) official figure of 217 up to 3 April. Yet, turn the clock back to 2 March and it seems at that time the Tories didn’t even think care homes were at high risk.
Care Home Professional reported that the Public Health England guidance at that time was that:
There is no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present.
If any of your staff do become infected through travel to affected countries you will be contacted by your local Health Protection Team to take you through a risk assessment for your particular setting.
Care Home Professional also said:
The Government said facemasks did not provide protection from infection for care staff during normal day to day activities and should, therefore, not be worn. It added that infected individuals should only wear facemasks on the advice of a healthcare worker.
Additionally, the guidance said there was no need to close a care home while a member of staff or resident was awaiting results after testing for the virus.
The government recommended that care homes did not close in the event it was discovered they had been in contact with an infected individual.
That advice now seems, at best, utterly negligent. But the situation in social care during the pandemic also comes after a decade of Tory cuts.
Too little, too late
The Guardian reported that almost £8bn had been lost from adult social care budgets between 2010 and 2019. Meanwhile, by 2019 around 84% of all care home beds were run by the private sector. This in turn meant that care workers are often paid barely above the minimum wage so companies can drive a profit. All this ultimately means worse care for the people reliant on the services. So the sector was already in crisis before coronavirus hit.
Now, the solutions the government is offering, like testing for care workers, are all ‘too little, too late’ for a situation that has already spiralled out of control. How they will pull the sector, and the people reliant on it, back from the brink remains to be seen. But a badge from Hancock is an insult to the thousands who have died, potentially from his government’s wilful negligence.
Featured image via Guardian News – YouTube
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