W and P Assessment and Training Centre chief: “Local authorities have muddied the waters with regards to Covid-19 advice”
In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, Wendy Erskine, managing director of W&P Assessment and Training Centre in Weymouth, Dorset, discusses the impact of Covid-19 on the adult social care sector and how, in her view, local authorities have worsened the problem rather than mitigate it.
W&P Training Centre itself is a family-run business passionate about supporting health and social care providers, as well as local authorities, to improve and develop their services to the most vulnerable in society. However, what Erskine has been hearing from their customers in the care sector throughout the pandemic has been less than positive.
"We began to receive comments from our customers in the care sector over a fortnight ago, especially about the sudden and often extreme price rises for Personal Protective Equipment [PPE], but also about new information requests from local authorities", Erskine said.
On the issue of PPE, Erskine feels that local authorities have not offered enough support for care providers.
"The reasons for this are that PPE supplier lists have not always been up to date", Erskine explained.
"Further to this, service providers from a range of sectors had to compete for PPE supplies. It would have made better sense to use local government procurement power to guarantee access to PPE for all that required it".
Erskine believes that local authorities have also fallen short in the realms of advice and keeping care providers updated with the proper guidance.
"Overload is the only word I could use to describe the information that has been provided”" Erskine said.
"Rather than relying on a central point of information, where all relevant guidance would be posted, such as the NHS coronavirus website, local authorities have taken government guidance, regurgitated it, tweaked it, and muddied the waters no end.
"The various care sector quangos have similarly taken it upon themselves to update government guidance. All of this has understandably made it very difficult to know where to take reliable information from. There have simply been too many parties interfering."
Erskine went on to highlight the fact that local councils have been approaching care home and domiciliary services figureheads and asking them to complete contingency and emergency plans, which in Erskine’s view is an ultimately pointless endeavour.
"Local authorities have been asking managers of care homes and domiciliary services to do this, but to what end? On the one hand, it is inconvenient for managers to have to do this when they are striving to cover shifts and navigate high levels of staff absence. On the other hand, it begs the question as to who is going to access this information and actually put it to good use.
"Moreover, had the Care Quality Commission been consulted on this issue, they have notifications and statements of purpose from every care provider at their disposal. This would have painted a much clearer picture of the state of service provision which local authorities could then examine, without having to place any additional burden on care providers themselves".
Erskine concluded that local authorities have a role to play in providing practical support to providers and that duplication of information is something that should be avoided, or risk further hampering the sector.
"Duplication of information under these circumstances is not what the sector needs. I would urge local authorities to step up their practical support of providers, for example by using civil emergency planning teams to support social services commissioning and contracting, rather than burdening providers with more paperwork. They have much more pressing matters to be getting on with".