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Forces raise concern over resilience plans for elderly through LRFs

Police and Crime Commissioners have raised serious concerns with the government over local support for vulnerable older people.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has been urged to escalate to central government concerns raised by members of some local resilience forums (LRFs) that councils haven’t got the measures in place to lead with support for vulnerable people during the lock down.

The leading charity for older people warned it was vital that “national and local support mechanisms” were operating within days.

But concerns have been raised that some councils have not taken decisions fast enough to be ready. Contacts outside of gold groups were described by one official as “patchy”.

“Issues are being raised but it’s slow seeing the concerns answered with actions. The communication hasn’t been great,” one told Police Oracle.

Some council officials within local resilience forums have been slow in taking decisions about becoming leads for the volunteer schemes and organising support for vulnerable people during the lockdown.

Police forces have warned they are already overstretched and don’t have the capacity to help manage schemes and tackle issues such as background checks for the large number of people that are involved.

The COVID-19 outbreak has revived concerns by police forces during the austerity era that officers are now the default first responders for social care issues.

The scale of the problems was revealed in the emergency bill documents published by the government.

It said: “In the event of a severe coronavirus outbreak in the UK, the health and social care systems will come under significant pressure to tackle the outbreak and maintain the delivery of other non-coronavirus related essential services. Not only will demand on health and social care services increase substantially in the event of a severe coronavirus outbreak, but supply will be impacted as a result of coronavirus-related absenteeism within the health and social care workforce.

It added: “NHS England estimates that in the event of a worst-case scenario the absenteeism rate could be as high as 30% for healthcare workers. In this situation, many essential health and social care services may cease with detrimental impacts on those that need them most.”

The government has called for volunteers to get involved but charities warned there were limits on what people could do – especially with restrictions on movements.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said: “Given where we are it seems certain that families, friends and communities are going to have to rally round and provide more low level support for older and disabled people who are in need during this uncertain time. However, some older people don’t have the benefit of these support networks and it is they who we worry about the most.

She added: “Age UK and many other charities are racing to put processes in place to provide practical and emotional support in local communities and those who are most vulnerable to serious illness will be able to contact a national call centre to access support very soon, but the truth is we are all ’playing catch up’ here, since the UK has already been partially locked down. This is a perilous time for our older population and it’s tremendously important that national and local support mechanisms are made operational within the next few days.” 

But people working within local authority resilience teams said council teams that were already depleted due to years of austerity were delivering and that the scale of the crisis needed a response that involved every sector of each community.

The Emergency Planning Society said local forums were responding as fast as they could.

Jacqui Semple, Chair of the EPS said: “There are challenges right across the public sector in responding to the needs of our citizens during this pandemic. It means that partnership working and an integrated approach is absolutely critical. 

She added:  “Across the country, local resilience plans are being developed, and should be fairly advanced, in how to best support the vulnerable in our communities. These bring together key services, but should also recognise that there will be capacity issues. This is bigger than the public sector, it is an “all hands on deck” situation and the roles of volunteers, local businesses and others – all working together – will be key in helping ensure we do all we can to support and protect the vulnerable people in our communities.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said they were working hard to prevent the virus spreading further.

A spokesman told Police Oracle: “Local plans are in place for every eventuality, including a pandemic. Directors of Public Health, working in councils, have specialist knowledge of the management of threats, such as viruses. They continue to work round-the-clock to deal with this rapidly evolving situation by using tried and tested infection control procedures to contain and delay the spread of the virus.

“Councils are also reviewing their business continuity plans in case of disruption to key services and looking at how they can best use their staff and mobilise resources. They will continue to be guided by national medical advice and government guidance. If the virus spreads, it will place extra demands on council resources which we will continue to discuss with government.”



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