We know that those who receive social care are among the most vulnerable in our society. The Department of Health and Social Care has strived to support the sector throughout this pandemic, providing it with a sense of guidance, extra funding, and emergency supplies of personal protective equipment, and prioritising access to testing.
May I express my very sincere thanks for all the help that social care services have provided throughout this ongoing crisis, but can the Minister assure me that we have learned all the lessons from the shielding programme and that the social care sector is adequately prepared for the coming winter months?
I join my hon. Friend in thanking all those who work in social care for their commitment and compassion since the start of the pandemic. We have indeed carried out work to understand the impact of shielding on people’s health and we will shortly be publishing our winter plan for adult social care, setting out our preparations for the winter and in the event of a second wave.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that every care home in England has either received a coronavirus test or is about to receive one?
Yes, I can confirm that. Every Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England has been offered testing. Care homes for those who are over 65 and with dementia have been offered repeat testing. We have now opened up repeat testing to care homes for working age adults.
Following on from that question, Ministers initially promised weekly testing for care home staff by 6 July. They then abandoned that pledge and said that routine tests would not happen until 7 September. With more than 15,000 deaths from covid-19 in care homes so far and with winter and the flu season fast approaching, regular weekly testing of care home staff is critical. Will the Minister now guarantee that every care home will have weekly testing for their staff by Monday to help all of our loved ones in residential care keep safe?
We are indeed determined to support social care, and particularly the care homes, with repeat, regular testing. As the hon. Member knows, because we have spoken about it, there has been a delay with our repeat testing of care homes because of a particular issue with some of the test kits. That was communicated to her and to the sector. As I said in my previous answer, we have now been able to offer repeat testing to all care homes for older people, to open up the portal to those care homes with working age adults as residents, and to initiate our second round of repeat testing for the older sector.