A council has been blasted for refusing to supply vulnerable people with free personal protective equipment even though it’s been paid for by the Welsh Government.
Denbighshire County Council has been accused of a “gross dereliction of duty” by social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) after it sent an email to care providers informing them it would no longer distribute PPE to them.
At a time when Covid was still a health risk with a rising number of cases again, CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE said the blatant disregard for the safeguarding of vulnerable people was a further demonstration that the authority was not fit for purpose.
Mr Kreft spoke out after the council sent a message to providers on July 25 blaming the Welsh Government for failing to fund the storage and the distribution of the PPE, including face masks, latex gloves and disposable aprons.
The message added: “On the basis that the funding has ceased and Denbighshire is experiencing significant budget pressures, we are now unable to continue with the storage and distribution of PPE and this is with immediate effect.”
The PPE is provided free by the Welsh Government to all local authorities in Wales at a time when Covid-19 is resurgent again.
Over 108 people in Wales tested positive for the virus last week when there were seven deaths linked to the disease but those figures are expected to rise in the autumn and winter.
Mr Kreft said: “Denbighshire is a council which pays the lowest residential care fees in Wales, £101.69 a day and that’s considerably less than their councillors get as a day rate for expenses.
“They’ve been given this PPE free by the Welsh Government and they’re not prepared to make any effort to get that to vulnerable people and the registered staff who are caring for them.
“Care homes and home care companies are supposed to be able to have the PPE free of charge.
“The cost of providing it themselves has not been factored into the fees they receive from Denbighshire so the council should either review the decision or recalculate fees to take account of costs of PPE.
“It’s shocking and a dereliction of duty by the authority and they should be held to account for it.
“Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide services and here where they’re paying the lowest amount for care in Wales and they’ve got the chance to assist the private care sector they show their institutional prejudice.
“It’s just not acceptable and people are entitled to ask the question, ‘Is Denbighshire the right organisation to ensure these vulnerable people are properly protected?’.
“Whoever has made this decision needs to be held accountable if this leads to illness and death.
“We know Covid infections are going to go up and everyone over 65 is going to be offered a vaccine – that tells me this virus hasn’t gone away and it is going to kill people.
“It’s a safeguarding matter and what Care Forum Wales will do is ensure that whoever is responsible for that decision is held accountable for not passing on vital PPE.
“If there was partnership working they would be co-operating with care providers to ensure vital, life-saving equipment was getting to where it is needed.
“This is an example of a system of social care where the Welsh Government says one thing and a local authority like Denbighshire says another and the care providers and vulnerable people are left in limbo.
“It’s an indictment of the current system and the public have a right to ask if vulnerable people are safe in the hands of a local authority which pays its councillors more in expenses than it pays for the care of vulnerable people.
“You would think people would expect local authorities would do everything they could to support the providers looking after some of the most vulnerable people in the community rather than treat them with contempt.
“It’s an example of the broken system of social care in Wales and shows it’s not safe in the hands of authorities like Denbighshire.”
Denbighshire is one of three councils in Wales to announce they can no longer afford to store and distribute PPE provided free by the Welsh Government – the others are Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.