Today, the National Care Forum (NCF) said that the Government ‘remains silent’ about whether emergency funding for the care sector will be extended beyond the 31st March end date.
Emergency funding made available through the Infection Control Fund and the Rapid Testing Fund has made it possible for care providers to facilitate visits due to the added costs associated with the administration, testing and infection prevention and control measures required to manage visits and to minimise the risk of virus transmission in accordance with Government guidance.
With the end date nearing ever closer, the NCF said it is essential that the Government commits to extend this funding or there is a risk that all the fantastic progress made to reunite family and friends will be affected.
The NCF surveyed its members on 15th March to find out what is happening on the ground one week into the implementation of the new Government guidance on care home visiting: 53 care providers responded to the survey, representing 429 care homes and supporting 17,234 residents.
According to the NCF, the response to the survey was overwhelmingly positive and reinforced the importance and impact visiting has on residents in care homes and their loved ones. The survey revealed that providers have positively embraced visiting and the new approach to regular visitors. In over 60% of homes, the majority of residents have identified people that they want as regular visitors and those visits are taking place. NCF said there is also a growing cohort of people who are being assessed and identified as an essential caregiver.
Alongside these new approaches introduced by the Government guidance, care homes are continuing to use pods and outdoor visits to enable people to have a growing breadth of visitors. The survey results also show that care homes are embracing the new Partners in Care resource that has been produced by the NCF in partnership with relatives and residents organisations to help providers implement the Government guidance in facilitating meaningful visits.
However, grave levels of concern about how visits could be sustained without the continuation of Government funding was echoed among care providers.
Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, said, ‘It is impossible to understand why the Government, with less than two weeks to go before the end of March, is remaining silent about continuing the funding that has been central to enabling the reintroduction of visiting at pace and scale and the ongoing programme of rapid testing for visitors, staff and residents.
‘In our survey of NCF members, 83% of care homes were using the Infection Control Fund to facilitate visits including providing additional staff, cleaning and space for testing and visitors. 85% of respondents were using the Rapid Testing Fund to provide staff to carry out and record the testing of visitors. This heavy reliance on the emergency funding to make visiting happen means that, without this money, the return to regular visiting is being put in jeopardy. The Government must immediately confirm that this funding will be extended or risk breaking the commitment to an ‘irreversible’ step forward around visiting.’
Vic Rayner added, ‘The challenges of introducing indoor visiting is well expressed by a member who talks of the ‘very delicate balance between our residents’ mental wellbeing and any further risk of their catching COVID-19’. The Government has in its gift the ability to ensure that those scales are firmly tipped towards supporting wellbeing by ensuring all the necessary resources are in place to safely facilitate the meaningful visits that is laid out in the guidance, and that all residents need and want. Leaving decision making to the wire is never the way to treat people, but particularly not those who have waited nearly a year to be reunited, only to have that precious connection put in jeopardy as we wait once more for the Government to prioritise the funding of social care.’