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Local Government Responsibilities: Public Services

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:34 pm, 18th March 2020

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the community spirit that we see throughout the country, with people rallying to support friends, neighbours, vulnerable people and loved ones, is absolutely inspirational. I have seen it in south Gloucestershire and my hon. Friend has seen it in Hastings and Rye, and I know it is happening all around the country. I will touch on that later in my remarks.

We have given councils the flexibilities that I outlined to ensure that they are not required to divert staff from their urgent tasks, allowing them to get on with the priorities that we are setting out.

I also wish to talk about social care and the measures that we are taking with regard to that key priority area that the Secretary of State has outlined. We know that social care, especially for the elderly and disabled, will be at the forefront of our response to coronavirus. The Government will ensure that whatever our social care system and national health service needs, it will get. As I mentioned, we have already set aside £5 billion to support our NHS and public services. We also published on 13 March guidance on adult social care for care homes, home care providers and supported living providers. The guidance sets out how to maintain the delivery of care in the event of an outbreak of widespread transmission of coronavirus and what to do if care workers or individuals being cared for have symptoms of coronavirus.

As part of that essential contingency social care planning, we and local areas are also considering how best to harness the many people who are so keen to help as volunteers to alleviate the pressure on social care workers and the system. It is going to be critical that local authorities work very closely with the care sector to ensure that providers build on the existing plans and protocols that are in place to respond to the challenge. We are also confident that local authorities will work with the national health service in their areas and regions to make sure that people are cared for in the most appropriate setting. The health and social care workforce is under increasing pressure, and volunteers will be an invaluable resource for local areas to draw on in the event of emergencies. We will say more about this in the coming hours and days.

I am confident that all Members will support the Government’s efforts to make sure we have the best possible use of the fantastic skills and willingness to help of our citizens in responding to this crisis.