The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that it will be extending its financial support for the adult social care sector this winter.
The sector has been calling for confirmation that there will be an extension for some time. This week, The National Care Forum (NCF) asked the Government to ‘Think People First’ and said, ‘there is an immediate need to address the emergency facing social care’.
The funding was due to end on 30th September; however, the Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced late on 30th September that an additional £388.3m will be given to the sector to prevent the spread of infection in social care settings.
Today, the NCF said 'It's too little, too late'. Although the funding is welcome, NCF has called into question the late announcement.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum said, 'At the eleventh hour, the Government has finally announced an extension to the funding for Adult Social Care to support the delivery of care services in a Covid-safe environment. How it expects providers of care to plan and sustain services with the last minute nature of this extension is a mystery.'
Rayner added, 'Whilst the £388m funding is welcome, it should be noted that this represents a 23% reduction of equivalent* funding provided by the Government in only July of this year, and only 44% reduction of that provided in April of this year. Yet for care services, nothing has changed in terms of the areas that the fund is intended to support.'
'The testing regime remains, the strictures around visiting are still in place, there are extra conditions around vaccination ongoing with more on the horizon, isolation for staff working with clinically vulnerable people is still required and infection control measures including the restriction of staff movement remain a firm requirement. This is before taking into consideration the £100m of additional costs directly to care homes for implementing mandatory vaccinations that the Governments’ own impact assessments determined.'
This additional funding includes £25m to support care workers to access COVID-19 and flu vaccines over the winter months. The DHSC said this will ensure social care staff who need to travel to receive their COVID-19 or flu vaccinations are paid their usual wages to do so and can be support with travel costs. Continued funding to prevent infection spreading and provide testing will be delivered through the Infection Control and Testing Fund (ICTF), which was first introduced in May 2020 with an investment of £600m. This funding announcement includes £237m for Infection Control measures and £126.3m for testing costs.
To boost flu vaccine uptake among social care staff, GP practices will be able to vaccinate care home staff that are not registered at their practice. Uptake will be regularly monitored by region to allow a targeted approach, and more flu vaccines will be available earlier this year.
The Government will also extend the use of designated settings for people discharged from hospital to a care home with a positive COVID-19 test.
Rayner continues, 'Designated Schemes were a central plank of the Government’s plans to ensure COVID-19 positive patients from hospital were not discharged to care homes. This scheme has been very challenging for care providers to deliver, and made more so by the short-term approach to funding and insuring the services. Leaving the announcement to confirm the extension of these schemes until the night before both the funding and insurance runs out makes a mockery of the notion of a strategic, thought-through approach to ensuring that people receive the services they need in localities across the country.'
The Government has launched a consultation on extending free PPE beyond March 2022 for Health and Social Care today, (1st October).
Infection prevention and control measures to protect residents and staff include:
- Continuing to provide free PPE to protect against COVID-19 to the adult social care sector until the end of March 2022.
- Providing regular asymptomatic COVID-19 testing .
- Continuing to support care providers to make best use of technology to help remote monitoring including making pulse oximeters available to care homes that have less than the recommended number of devices.
- Continuing to support care home providers to follow guidance on restricting workforce movement between care homes and other care settings.
- Supporting providers to pay staff who are isolating in line with Government guidance their normal wages while doing so.
Minister for Care, Gillian Keegan said, ‘The social care workforce have continued to deliver high quality care in the most challenging circumstances over the past 18 months - showing true dedication and professionalism - and I can’t thank them enough for all their hard work.
‘We will ensure both staff and those who receive care continue to be protected from COVID-19, as well as other illnesses, this winter.’
*In April 2021 £341m was provided for the period 1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021. In July 2021 £251m was provided for the period 1st July 2021 to 30th September 2021. The current funding level of £388m covers a six month period.
This week, the National Care Forum outlined six key priority asks for the Government.