Government warned care workers need more than branding badge in fight against coronavirus

A "badge of honour" launched to recognise care workers as equal to NHS staff is "not the kind of announcement carers were looking for", a Leeds MP has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, wearing a green badge displaying the word "care", said today a single brand symbolising the entire profession would allow individual workers to “proudly and publicly identify themselves” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And he said supermarkets have been asked to ensure social care workers are given the same priority access as NHS staff.

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But Leeds North West Labour MP Alex Sobel said staff would rather be assured vital equipment was going to arrive to help them look after residents.

A badge like the one worn by Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the Downing Street press conference where he announced that there will be a single brand for care workers which he said may help them access similar perks to NHS staff. Photo: PA

Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street press conference: “This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo.

“I know that many businesses will want to offer the same recognition and benefits as they do wonderfully to the NHS.”

But Mr Sobel, who delivered 40 locally-made visors to a hospice on Tuesday to to a lack of supply, said: "The new branding for social care workers was not the kind of announcement the carers that I speak to were looking for. They want to know that the equipment that will keep residents and staff safe is going to arrive."

The comments were echoed by Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, who said care workers “need more than a badge and a pat on their head to define their precious role in society”.

She said: “They need the protective equipment and testing on the front line now to protect their lives. Ministers should be moving mountains to support our care sector to get the kit workers need available where and when they need it.

“Care workers are serially undervalued, highly skilled and massively underpaid.

“It will take far more than branding to get them the recognition and support they deserve and that battle will continue until care workers are treated the same as NHS workers.”

Under new plans for the care sector, Mr Hancock did also set out increased testing and improved access to protective equipment.

He said the Government would also strengthen recruitment efforts to get tens of thousands of more staff into the profession.

It will pay for initial induction training, he said.

He said: “Everyone knows the job isn’t easy, whether supporting people of working age, who are some of the most vulnerable in society, or supporting people and their families with dignity at the end of their lives, but I know what a fulfilling profession it is and I know that many will answer our call.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “Let this be the day we stop talking about health and social care as if they are two different worlds, as if the NHS and nursing homes have different values.

“We are in this together and, not before time, the Government has stepped in to proclaim parity for all forms of care and all staff working tirelessly to defeat the virus and save lives.

“The virus does not discriminate and nor must we – all care is equal.”