Covid-19 and Care: Baronsmede Family Homes owner discusses concerns over testing and the 'new normal'

Published by Scott Challinor on May 31st 2020, 4:00pm

Baronsmede Family Homes was established in 1985 to provide services for adults with learning disabilities. In conversation with the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, owner Dee Tormey discusses the struggles this critical corner of the care sector is facing as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and the preparation that will need to go into readying Baronsmede for what will become the ‘new normal’ way of operating.

Throughout the pandemic thus far, concerns surrounding testing have been well-documented, particularly within the care sector. Although prime minister Boris Johnson’s government has worked hard to ramp-up the UK’s testing capacity in recent weeks, it remains one of Tormey’s greatest concerns.

Tormey said: "One of my main concerns at present is around testing for staff and residents. As a provider for adults with learning disabilities I cannot request tests for staff or residents in the home as the current guidance only covers services for the elderly and people with dementia."

Government guidance has also come under scrutiny in recent weeks over clarity, but Tormey highlighted a separate issue in that it appears to overlook residents with certain conditions in the context of the care sector.

“In the guidance for care homes it clearly recognises that people with learning disabilities and autism are often at higher risk from respiratory illnesses. With the specific focus on care homes I am confused as to why this sector has not been included.”

Tormey is also concerned that the practicalities of continuing to operate under new “Covid secure” social distancing measures could bring with it a whole new set of challenges which Baronsmede Family Homes will be forced to meet in future.

Elaborating on this issue, Tormey explained: “As part of my services I deliver a full programme of activities to people with learning disabilities from my development centre, and so face the same issues as schools in the implementation of the guidance around social distancing. This will be challenging for us in the short term”.

Yet, a greater underlying concern for Tormey centres around how the business will be able to rebuild in the future and whether the government will throw its support behind developmental opportunities.

Tormey said: “Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, I had reached a point where I was able to accept more day placements as my adult education and activity programmes were being expanded. I also have planning permission to build a new centre on the land adjacent to my current provision, which will provide additional space and opportunities and will make the longer-term management of social distancing easier.

“However, I need to alter the position of this proposed new building and currently have a planning application submitted with Wealden Planning regarding this. I also have other development projects in the pipeline which are crucial to the longer-term survival of the business.

“I am, therefore, anxious about the government position in relation to encouraging planning departments to support development opportunities. These will be essential to kick start businesses and stimulate the economy and our hope is that the government will throw its weight behind them.”

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