Labour councillors representing Adur and Worthing have accused West Sussex County Council of being 'slow and inept' in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving staff without enough protective equipment and residents in danger.
Worthing's Labour group leader, Beccy Cooper, said local care home managers and social workers had brought their complaints to the party.
“Care home managers have stated that they are very short of personal protective equipment, with very few or no tests available for symptomatic residents," she said.
"Furthermore, whilst there is funding available for accommodation for NHS staff who do not want to risk taking the virus back to their families, there would appear to be no equivalent for front line workers in care homes. One local care home has sourced a caravan for staff to get some sleep in between their shifts. This lack of support is a neglect of duty of care to our heroic local keyworker residents".
Official death statistics released by NHS England have recorded only patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, or covid-19, and died in hospital.
As of yesterday (April 26), 18,420 people have been reported to have died in hospital with coronavirus in England, with 261 of those coming in West Sussex.
But the Office for National Statistics has been calculating figures which include deaths outside of hospital and its latest statistics, up to the week ending April 10, suggest around ten per cent of coronavirus deaths are occuring in care homes.
Data collected by the National Care Forum, the leading representative body for the not-for-profit adult social care sector, shows a doubling of coronavirus-related deaths within the UK’s care homes in the week before April 18, and estimates that nationally the number could be as high as 4,040 deaths.
Labour councillors have also claimed children's social workers are not receiving protective equipment for their child protection visits, but have been told they are eligible for 100ml of hand sanitised if they fill out a form.
The county council has received £20.5million of emergency coronavirus funding from the Government and is set to receive more funding when an additional £1.6billion nationwide funding is allocated.
A spokesman for the county council said current forecasting shows the estimated costs of a lockdown until June this financial year could cost the county council as much as £85million.
"The council has looked at the impact of covid-19 on the county council’s financial position," the spokesman said.
"This has looked at the direct costs of the response, further costs resulting from being in lockdown, the impact on activity that was planned before the virus outbreak, costs of recovery and the impact on the economy of the lockdown.
"The council is working on a support package for its care homes and domiciliary care homes, valued at about £8m to the end June. It will also be working with the care sector during the three months to establish further need beyond this period, as the impact of covid-19 on the care sector in West Sussex becomes clear."
Amanda Jupp, the cabinet member for adults and health at the county council, said she had been heartened by the way the health and care sector had worked together and supported each other during the crisis.
"Although the 334 care homes in West Sussex are run as private, voluntary and independent businesses, we have been able to access personal protective equipment for many of them on request within 24 hours, as well as agreed an uplift in fees for those people funded by the county," she said.
"We are in regular dialogue with a number of homes and they know they can always contact us for help should they need it.”
Dr Cooper said more information was needed around whether the money was being used effectively where it is most needed.
"Our front line workers are caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, and the very least we can do is make sure that they have the right protective equipment, somewhere to sleep if they need to so they can protect their families and as much hand sanitiser as they require without the need for ridiculous bureaucracy and box ticking," she said.
Lee Cowen, Adur Labour group leader, said “When we look at the reports from care homes in this national context, we see a need for greater involvement from our government, at national and local level. The social care sector in West Sussex supports Adur residents who are most susceptible to coronavirus and they require better support from West Sussex County Council.”