Despite the all-encompassing nature of being mid-pandemic, there are still plenty of other issues waiting in the wings for a resolution. Local government finance, social care and, of course, Brexit.
Much as I personally would like to forget all about leaving the EU, a Prime Minister elected on a promise is unlikely to abandon his heartlands – particularly when his pandemic record is not exactly a glowing legacy.
With home secretary Priti Patel’s plan for post-Brexit immigration rules released this week, the Government is playing to its core audience – and abandoning care workers in the process.
The pandemic has, for local government, brought a new-found appreciation for the care sector. Overworked and underpaid, staff have carried on serving the people who need them the most – often without the proper protective gear, risking their own health and that of their families in the process.
Privately some council chiefs will come clean and admit the sector is culpable in driving down costs for care – and salaries for staff – in a bid to rescue their own finances from the impending graph of doom. The price of austerity has been high.
But as the nation clapped for carers, the Home Office was cooking up plans which will see staff shut out of immigration plans – branding them too low skilled and too low paid to qualify. Forget the clap; this double blow is a slap in the face for the heroes of the care homes.
This week’s Office for Budget Responsibility report has highlighted the post-COVID options for Government – raise taxes or go back to austerity. But there was a warning in the small print – one that local government will be all too familiar with; beware the rising cost of care.
With vacancies in care running at 120,000 across the UK, excluding care workers from the health and social care visa is not an oversight, it is a catastrophe that could force council finances over the cliff.
It’s time the Government and the nation woke up to the fact that the NHS – so beloved of the nation – is at risk if the care system collapses.
As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, local government will need solutions to its financial problems and for social care. Now is the time to get the public – and the politics – behind care workers to give them the same rights as their counterparts in health.