Every day, in every community in Wales, the hidden army of social care workers is battling away on the frontline, providing care and support to our most vulnerable friends, families and neighbours. I salute them and their families.
Social care workers are facing similar challenges to our NHS colleagues in the fight against Covid-19.
When they enter a home to provide care and support, they do not know if the virus is present, as many people do not have symptoms, yet they may be infected.
The hidden army is relying on its PPE to protect it from contracting the virus and passing it on to other clients or from taking it into their own homes.
The challenge is particularly difficult in residential and nursing care homes, where the vulnerability of residents makes the impact of the virus quite stark.
Care homes are not community hospitals, they are where people live for many years, when they can no longer live independently, due to a physical or mental health condition that any of us may encounter as we age.
Most care homes will only be able to isolate residents in their own bedrooms, with limited capacity to provide access to outdoor spaces or social interactions.
The current social distancing measures mean that families cannot visit their loved ones for weeks and are often deprived of a meaningful last goodbye, which is so important.
We are now starting to see the infection and death rates from care homes, and they provide sobering reading.
Remarkably, some very old and frail people are defying the predictions and are winning the battle against Covid-19.
This gives us hope that more people will survive and more families will be saved from losing loved ones.
If you live in a family with a social care worker or an NHS employee, working on the frontline, you will be rightly proud of the incredible personal sacrifice and commitment they show every day.
We are now seeing the wider community showing its appreciation, through the “Clap for Carers” every Thursday evening, incredible fundraising activities and volunteers stepping up to provide support.
The NHS has a well-recognised brand, which is understood and envied across the world. We are rightly proud of our NHS and always want to protect it.
Social care services in Wales are commissioned by local councils and delivered by more than a thousand small and medium businesses, in the independent and voluntary sectors.
This means people have more choice and providers can adapt their responses to suit individual needs. It also means it’s sometimes hard to recognise a social care worker.
Social Care Wales has worked with the Welsh Government and Care Inspectorate Wales to develop a card for the social care workforce in Wales.
For the first time, we have the means to recognise those working on the frontline, and to date, nearly 19,000 workers have downloaded the digital card.
The card is now recognised in Wales by Asda, The Food Warehouse, Iceland, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
I thank them, on behalf of our social care workers, and encourage other service providers to show they care.
So, when we get frustrated that we cannot do the things we took for granted before “lockdown”, spare a thought for the hidden army of social care workers.
Its excellent care and support is enabling more people, with the virus and with other challenges, to be supported in their own homes, so the NHS can focus on those who need the critical care that can only be provided in hospital.