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Adult social care

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The impact of COVID-19 on adult social care has been severe. Care homes in particular have borne the brunt of a disease that disproportionately affects older people and those with multiple conditions and care needs. Adult social care staff have worked hard to keep people safe, but the sector, already fragile, has faced significant challenges.

During the peak of the pandemic, we heard how staff being off sick or self-isolating led to some providers not being able to accept people. We heard of some positive examples of local authorities stepping in during the pandemic to support providers where there were significantly reduced staff numbers. However, challenges around staffing and not being able to accept new admissions meant that some providers were facing a shortfall in people using their services, putting the financial viability of some care homes at risk. Recent analysis of providers in our Market Oversight scheme indicates that recovery in care home admissions is slower for self-funded places compared with admissions funded by local authorities. This could put added financial pressure on homes that are more reliant on people who fund their own care.

In June the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said that a quarter of directors were concerned about the financial sustainability of most of their residential and nursing providers following the outbreak. Also, 15% were concerned about the financial sustainability of most of their homecare and community care providers; before the onset of COVID-19, this figure was 3%.

To support the sector, the government provided £3.7 billion of extra funding to local authorities to help them address the pressures they are facing across the range of public services including social care, and also £600 million through a new Infection Control Fund.

In June, the Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce (which included representation from CQC) was commissioned to ensure that concerted and determined action is taken to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, both for those who rely on care and support and for the social care workforce. This was followed in September by the government’s winter plan for adult social care. This coincided with an extension of the Infection Control Fund, with a further £546 million to help the sector restrict the movement of staff between care homes to stop the spread of the virus.

Social care’s longstanding need for reform, investment and workforce planning has been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic. The legacy of COVID-19 must be the recognition that issues around funding, staffing and operational support need to be tackled now – not at some point in the future.

In its April COVID-19 action plan for adult social care, the government made a commitment to “ensure that social care gets the recognition and parity of esteem that it deserves. An important legacy of this crisis must be the value that we place on social care as an essential service, core to delivering the frontline response to this crisis, and to ensure everyone understands that people who work in social care are key workers, in every sense.”

We support this call for parity. The pandemic has powerfully underlined the essential value of social care in helping people to live the lives they want to lead. To ensure the very best care and support for people in the future, there needs to be a new deal for the care workforce – one that develops clear career progression, secures the right skills for the sector, better recognises and values staff, invests in their training and supports appropriate professionalisation.

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Last updated:
15 October 2020