Like many others I have often criticised the UK government for the handling of the pandemic in social care services. In essence, history will tell us there was no real plan to protect people who use social care services from COVID-19. On the contrary the decision to protect the NHS at all costs resulted in more than 15000 deaths.
What is happening in Australia?
People who use social care policies and procedures for supported living in the UK are is not alone in in enduring the effects of failed government policy. In Australia, Alan Jones the outspoken former radio broadcaster has taken a swipe at the Federal Government over its handling of the COVID outbreaks in aged care. The Sky News host who is appearing on RFBI’s Mental Moments TV show for Mental Health Week said the Government’s aim during the pandemic was to “protect the most vulnerable”, but “that hasn’t happened”.
“Which political leader, yesterday or tomorrow, will put their hand up and utter the certain truth that the elderly and their families have been let down?” he said.
In particular, Mr Jones criticised the Royal Commission’s special COVID report finding that neither the Department of Health or the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) had a national plan for the aged care. Sound familiar.
“This is staggering in its incompetence and betrayal of our elderly,” he said.
Noting that some families spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for residential care, the host stated bluntly: “What have they bought? Death.”
Mr Jones added that the Government’s own witnesses to the Royal Commission had warned the Government aged care homes needed a minimum of an additional $3.5 billion a year to provide better care.
“It is a scandal,” Mr Jones concluded.
“The decency of our society can be measured by our treatment of those who most need our help. In relation to the aged, we have to stop running away from the fact that we have failed abominably.”
Abandonment of the elderly
Alan Jones says the state of aged care homes in Australia demonstrates a “simple and straightforward abandonment of the elderly”. Mr Jones said the consequences of coronavirus on the aged care sector were catastrophic. Although the Prime Minister warned on March 15 the government’s aim during the pandemic was to “protect the most vulnerable”, Mr Jones said “that hasn’t happened”.
Counsel Assisting the Aged Care Royal Commission, Peter Rozen, said in August there was no National coordinated plan to help the aged care sector deal with Covid-19.
Why have Governments failed to develop a pandemic protection plan?
If one was being magnanimous one might say the UK Government took its eye off the ball. On the other hand, we all know social care was abandoned to protect the NHS at all costs. In Australia the Government’s aim during the pandemic was to protect the most vulnerable, but that hasn’t happened either. In both cases it raises several questions. Was the medical skills and knowledge available to develop such a plan? Are either government able to demonstrate a real commitment to protecting the most vulnerable? Was sufficient funding made available to the social care sector at the time when they most needed it?
Evidence from the performance of the Australian Governments suggests the UK is not alone in the Government’s handling of the pandemic. There is a familiar ring about the quotations from Alan Jones ‘abandonment of the elderly’, ‘there was no National coordinated plan to help the aged care sector deal with Covid-19’ and above all ‘the decency of our society can be measured by our treatment of those who most need our help’.
We are not alone.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy