The charity Carers UK warned that a lack of testing “will be a factor in stopping hundreds of centres” from being able to deliver crucial services for thousands of vulnerable people.
In correspondence sent to Richmond Council on 19 October, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) admitted that it was “unable to offer testing to day care centres”, adding that other councils had “also raised this” issue.
Thousands of people with dementia, learning difficulties and other mental health conditions, as well as their carers, have been unable to get tests for the coronavirus and face missing out on vital support, The Independent can reveal.
The government has rolled out extensive testing in care homes and hospital settings, yet the same programme has not been provided for day centres, many of which have been forced to scale back the services they offer.
The DHSC later told The Independent that “our testing strategy for adult social care is based on scientific advice on the most effective use of available testing capacity”.
However, the most recent data shows that only 65 per cent of the UK’s testing capacity is currently being used, leading to calls for the government to implement routine testing in day centres and other social care settings.
Day care providers insist that they have been “neglected” since the first lockdown, and have accused No 10 of turning a “blind eye” to the sector.
Other centres say that they have been forced to close their doors throughout the entirety of the pandemic because of the inability to ensure patients’ safety on a day-to-day basis and a lack of financial support.
Those that have managed to stay open insist that the provision of regular testing would enable them to provide a safer environment for staff and patients.
The failure to get local day-care services back up and running is taking its toll on family members who have seen their responsibilities increase during the Covid crisis.
Just under two-fifths of unpaid family carers are now providing more care because their local services – including day centres – have been closed or significantly reduced, research from Carers UK shows.
In a survey of almost 6,000 carers, 81 per cent said they were now providing more care for family members than before the March lockdown, while three-quarters said they were mentally exhausted as a result of the burden of care.
Christine Casely, a case studies manager at Carers UK, warned that these individuals “are on the brink”.
She said that “an expansion of testing would benefit everyone, including helping day centres to operate”.
“We cannot emphasise enough how important these services are to carers’ health and wellbeing, and older and disabled people needing care,” Ms Casely added.
Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham and the health and social care spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, last week wrote to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, urging him to provide regular testing for day centres.
This, she wrote, would help to ensure the resumption of these “vital services” and provide a “lifeline” for those individuals who have struggled to care for their loved ones.
Ms Wilson first raised the raise in parliament on 7 July, and was told by Mr Hancock that there was “a project under way on this”. The health secretary promised to outline “the full details of the plan” in a letter, yet Ms Wilson claims she has yet to receive this.
“Day centres should be treated the same as any care home and given access to vital testing, certainly for staff, and preferably for users of their services as well,” she told The Independent.