Govt needs to help councils to support care effort
The Government must provide more support to local authorities to strengthen the fight against the second wave of coronavirus, campaigners said today.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) says councils need support so that they can in turn help care providers protect older and vulnerable people against the virus.
The ICG, which represents care providers, says support for local authorities and social care is the missing link in the Government’s defences against the second wave.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “We have to find a way to get support to the front line in the fight against Covid-19 as the second wave arrives. Older and vulnerable adults are going to be the most at risk, as we saw during the first wave.
“Staffing is the biggest issue. We already have a huge shortage – with 100,000 vacancies on any one day – and across the sector staff becoming ill and self-isolating is further exacerbating that crisis. Tests are taking longer and longer to come back so, again, this is impacting on the staff we have available. We are restricting the use of agency staff, so we are facing a real issue and need help.”
The ICG has warned that providers are bracing themselves to deal with:
- a potential staffing crisis
- mental health issues if home visits are banned
- increased strain on already patchy testing
It says the Government must urgently get more funding to local authorities and to social care, in particular to support homecare.
Research for ADASS and the LGA found that providers could face an extra bill of £5.9bn between April and September of this year from dealing with Covid-19.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of Covid-19 deaths in care and nursing home across England and Wales at 27 for the week ending 11th September, up from 17 and 23 for previous weeks. From 28 December to 11th September, 15,529 people died from Covid-19 in care and nursing homes in England and Wales.
Mr Padgham added: “Unless local authorities and social care are properly supported to deal with the second wave, especially to look after people in their own homes, we will face the same kind of crisis that has cost many, many lives in care and nursing homes already.
“If visits have to be suspended how are we going to cope with residents and families who are suffering mental health issues because they are facing a separation which looks like going on for a year? If we have supervised visits, where are we going to get the extra staff to manage those at this critical time?
“Unless we can get more staff into the sector, by getting it the recognition it deserves, we are going to face a staffing crisis again anyway, because of the numbers we are having to test and those who self-isolate.”
Measures so far announced by the Government include free PPE for care workers until March, no movement of staff between care homes, a dashboard to monitor care home infections, the appointment of a new chief nurse for adult social care, and an extra £546m in Infection Control Fund money.
The ICG says the Government must solve the delays in testing which have seen staff taking a test and then waiting more than a week for the results.
“We must avoid heading blindly into a repeat of the first phases of coronavirus over again,” Mr Padgham added. “Yes, in many respects we will be better prepared, but the fundamental issue of a social care sector which has been neglected and under-funded still remains. We are still short of staff, we are still struggling to get manageable testing in place and if the virus takes a hold again, it won’t be long before homes will again be asked to take in Covid-19 patients to ease pressure on hospitals.
“We have to look at ways that we can keep enabling visits, we have to support local authorities to help them put more resources into care, including homecare, and we have to address the issue of discharging Covid-19 patients into care and nursing homes.
“If providers are to accept people with Covid-19 into their homes they will certainly need more support and more guidance.”
The ICG last week welcomed an injection of money into infection control, free PPE until March and the appointment of a Chief Nurse as welcome moves.
But Mr Padgham added: “Whilst these are positive, I fear we have to go further if we are to get through the coming months without seeing Covid-19 take a hold again.
“We have to get more people into the sector to address the staffing crisis. The only way to do that is to pay social care staff better for the amazing job they do, not just during coronavirus but all the time.”
“Before coronavirus we knew there were at least 1.5m people living in this country without the care they need. With coronavirus, heaven knows what that figure is now.
“It is now more than a year since Boris Johnson promised to end the social care crisis once and for all and the only thing we have seen is the situation getting worse.
“Under-funded and neglected by government after government, coronavirus exposed a social care system that was already in crisis and plunged it into further despair.
“We need to see, immediately, as a matter of urgency, a full, root and branch overhaul of the social care system.”
The ICG wants to see:
- A root and branch overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded
- NHS care and social care to be merged and managed either locally or nationally
- Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation or National Insurance
- A guarantee that people receiving publicly-funded care can receive it in their own home or close to where they live
- A commissioner for older people and those with Learning Disabilities in England
- A properly-costed national rate for care fees linked to a national career pathway and salary framework for care staff
- Dementia treated like other high priority illnesses, like cancer and heart disease
- A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
- A cap on social care costs, including ‘hotel’ charges
- Local Enterprise Partnerships to prioritise social care
- A national scheme to ensure people save for their own care, as they do for a pension
- A new model of social care delivery based on catchment areas – like GPs
- Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT
- CQC to have much greater powers to oversee all commissioning practises such as per minute billing and 15-minute visits
- Less duplication of inspection between CQC and local authorities/CCGs
- Greater recognition of the role of the independent sector and utilisation of its expertise in the commissioning and delivery of social care
- Guaranteed equal partnership working through seats on Health and Well Being Boards, CCGs and NHS
- Giving providers and CQC greater flexibility in delivering services
- Providing telemedicine incentives
- Allowing nurses and social care staff from overseas to work in the U.K. including lowering the salary cap
- Training and bursaries to encourage recruitment/end the shortage of nurses
- Long term measures to integrate older and younger people in care settings and change the perception of the generations
- Investment in research and development into new models of social care delivery
- Funding to help upgrade older care homes to maintain a range of choice for the public and investment in domiciliary care
- Funding for leadership training.