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MP questions Minister on the absence of social work voice on SAGE

Barbara Keeley MP says Government failed to use expertise from social work and social care sector in the early stages of pandemic

During a recent oral evidence session of the ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt’ inquiry held in the House of Commons by the Health and Social Care Select Committee and the Science and Technology Select Committee, Barbara Keeley MP questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the lack of social work voice on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

During the evidence session, Barbara Keeley MP said: “Care England told me planning prior to the pandemic did not involve social care; it was all focused on the NHS. The British Association of Social Workers chief executive, Dr Ruth Allen, said, 'SAGE would be strengthened enormously by input from social work, and it is shocking that we have none.' 

“Some of the biggest care home operators have said that they repeatedly warned in March 2020 about the dangers of discharging people into care homes without testing, and they warned you both directly by email and via representatives of Care England. Given the terrible excess mortality in care homes, partly driven by actions that the care sector had warned could be damaging, do you recognise that this failure to include expertise from the care sector was a mistake?”

Responding to the questioning, Matt Hancock referred to the Winter Plan and said that representative organisations from the care sector were involved with that – yet Barbara Keeley MP pointed out that the winter plan was developed in August, months after Britain entered lockdown. 

Barbara Keeley’s question raises an important point that the social care voice had not been listened to for the first part of the pandemic - and it is still challenging to have the social work voice heard, even now. 

BASW will be looking at avenues to campaign to ensure that social work voices are included as part of SAGE in the future.