War of words over handling of PPE for Dudley residents in need
A senior councillor has accused Dudley Council of leaving vulnerable people to "fend for themselves" due to a lack of personal protective equipment.
Labour's shadow health chief, Councillor Shaukat Ali, said the Conservative-run council had let down those in need amid coronavirus.
But council bosses have accused the opposition member of "politicising" the situation – branding his comments "cheap, nasty and wholly unnecessary".
Councillor Ali raised the issue on behalf of Helen Ashby, from Stourbridge, who looks after her 31-year-old son, David, who has Down's syndrome.
Mrs Ashby said she had been unable to source PPE from the authority due to her not being part of a care provider registered with the Care Quality Commission.
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She was forced to buy the protective equipment needed to carry out the care and said she had been "forgotten about" by the Government and the authority.
Councillor Ali said: "This council has let down vulnerable people in the borough and I will be asking for the number of people who have suffered as a consequence of being abandoned.
"I am deeply concerned that we have people in the community who are most vulnerable who have been left to fend on their own.
"Mrs Ashby ended up buying PPE which she shouldn’t have had to just because carers like her are not registered with the CQC when there is no requirement for this.
"We have a responsibility to look after all vulnerable members of our community and the plight of carers needs looking to urgently by Dudley Council and by the Government."
Councillor Nicholas Barlow, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said it would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases – and slammed the opposition councillor's comments.
He said: "Throughout this pandemic crisis, the Conservative-led administration maintained close-working arrangements with opposition colleagues, especially with Councillor Ali’s predecessor.
"Sadly, but unsurprisingly, Councillor Ali’s negative approach has soured that positive relationship since he was appointed; he clearly thought it wise to de-stabilise that arrangement by politicising the situation for his own twisted agenda.
"It's cheap, nasty and wholly unnecessary at a time when we should be working collaboratively.
"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an individual case; however, if a carer, relative, care provider, or anyone else, has any concerns then they should contact me or their ward councillor by email."
Councillor Nicholas Barlow said more than 4,600 pieces of PPE had been handed out to carers who receive Direct Payments and the council had has offered a range of support to people in need, including helping special schools with supplies of the equipment, care providers receiving support from the Commissioning Team, and set up a helpline.
And people who would usually attend day centres – closed as a result of coronavirus – have received extra support at home, the council said.
Councillor Barlow said carers had played a "vital role" in keeping people in the borough safe – and will be "taking steps" to acknowledge the role of the key workers.
Dudley Council leader Councillor Patrick Harley said: "This council has done more than most to ensure vital PPE has been distributed to those who need it.
"In fact, Dudley has been recognised as an example of good practice throughout this pandemic.
"Councillor Ali`s comments are an insult to the excellent hard work of Dudley Council’s staff, volunteers and carers who have given their all throughout what has been a difficult time."