Government urged to suspend VAT charges on protective equipment for social care providers

Care homes should not have to pay VAT for supplies of protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, a union has said.

Social care providers are being charged tax on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, which does not apply to the NHS, UNISON said.

The union said that the Government must immediately suspend VAT on the products to help care homes through the Covid-19 “national emergency”.

VAT is adding to costs, which are already inflated due to supply chain issues, high demand and, in some instances, profiteering.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis (pictured) said: “No social care employer should be paying VAT for what has clearly become essential equipment.

“This is a national emergency. The virus is tearing through care homes and everything possible must be done to stop it. That means cutting the costs of PPE from today.

“Care workers are worried sick about the people they look after and also fear for their own health. Suspending VAT immediately for the duration of the crisis will make a huge difference.

“The Government must also send a clear directive to suppliers and retailers not to hike the cost of life-saving safety equipment. No one should be trying to make a quick buck from people’s desperation to stay well during the pandemic.”

Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said: “Social care providers across the country are delivering exceptional services in unprecedented times despite the fact that they are having to fight to get the appropriate equipment to keep their residents and staff safe.

“Why is there no parity for social care in the cost of PPE, and indeed, why did the chancellor omit to include social care providers in the VAT exemptions when announced for the NHS?

“If there is real parity, why the omissions?”

Amid the concerns, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it is launching a tool that will allow providers to share how they are being impacted, for example regarding PPE shortages and workforce issues.

UNISON said it had received more than 3,500 messages to its PPE alert hotline since it was set up.

It comes as data released on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics showed that there were more than 200 Covid-19 related deaths registered in care homes up to April 3 – around 5% of the total.

Mr Prentis said: “These figures are nothing short of a national scandal. Elderly and vulnerable residents face a death sentence because staff lack PPE.

“Care workers report that protective kit is still being locked away, having to make single-use masks last all week and being told they don’t need masks because residents aren’t displaying virus symptoms.

“Many talk too of there not being enough essential items like hand sanitiser, gloves and visors to go around.

“Care staff working in residential homes and out in the community feel like they – and the people they care for – are bottom of the priority list for PPE.”

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