Social care leaders call for emergency measures to ensure staff can provide support
Emergency measures must be put in place to ensure that social workers and social care staff get fuel for their cars so that they can continue to provide vital support to disabled and older people, care leaders say.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said it has received reports from around England of care staff struggling to find fuel or having to spend hours queuing to fill up when they should be supporting people in the community or in care settings.
The association is calling for measures to guarantee access to fuel for care staff – perhaps with designated protected slots at filling stations – and is asking other drivers to think twice about topping up their tanks and limit car use while current shortages persist.
Stephen Chandler, ADASS president, said it was essential that social care staff can continue to provide vital care and support.
“Care staff must be able to do their jobs. They provide essential support to people to eat and drink, wash, go to bed and get up and out to work and other activities – and to take medication and relieve pain.
“The Government must do all it can to guarantee adequate fuel supplies at filling stations, but the problems being experienced by care staff show that special steps are needed to help them. The public also has a responsibility not to make their difficulties any worse.”
The petrol shortage began late last week after oil firm BP warned that it would have to temporarily close some petrol stations due to a lack of HGV drivers able to supply fuel.
On Sunday, as long queues were reported across the nation, the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents more than 5,000 of the country’s filling stations reported that up to two thirds of retailers had run out of fuel.
ADASS joins a list of organisations and people calling for key workers – such as social workers, care workers and other frontline professionals for whom driving is essential – to receive priority access to fuel. Unison, Britain’s biggest public sector workers’ union, called for emergency powers to be triggered by the Government, while some local authorities have reportedly considered unilaterally declaring a ‘major incident’ to give priority to essential staff.
However, the Government has refused calls for the emergency measure and stated that there is no shortage of fuel.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said there were “tentative signs of stabilisation”, as filling stations were restocked, but long queues to get into forecourts remain across the country.
Shapps blamed the shortage on the public “panic-buying”, as well as pointing and the finger at the pandemic, which caused the cancellation of tests for 30,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers.
“Once we all return to our normal buying habits, the quicker we can get back to normality,” he told Sky News.
Meanwhile, the Government has also announced it would offer temporary visas to 5,000 HGV drivers from overseas to tackle the shortage. Some have questioned why the rules are being relaxed for hauliers, but not for the social care sector.
“Hauliers and poultry workers to get temporary visas. Yet again, social care has been forgotten!” said Mark Topps, social care campaigner.
Chris Grey, Emeritus Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway University, said the move had been “on the cards” for days. “If there's case for HGV then why not other sectors in crisis e.g. social care?”
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