On the 30th September the last remaining dedicated funding for social care to deal with Covid will come to an end. But the compliance requirements it is intended to fund remain unchanged. The testing requirements remain the same. The strictures on visiting remain the same. The IPC requirements remain the same. The restriction on staff movement remain the same. The money stops.
On top of this, the sands that hold up the delivery of social care are shifting at speed. The workforce crisis is escalating at a rate of knots – with national data showing vacancies rate spiralling out of control. The drive for mandatory vaccination bringing many organisations into direct conflict with the very staff they wish to support and encourage to take up vaccinations. The latest narrative of crisis at the petrol pumps have thrown the homecare workforce into disarray and we know that the winter months are likely to deliver a significant hike in fuel costs hitting residential services hard. Yet all the talk of reform does nothing to address these immediate concerns.
The next 6 months are critical for social care – of course – but most importantly they are critical for people and communities. I don’t believe for one moment that the general public care more about whether they have a turkey on their table at Christmas than ensuring someone needing care and support gets consistent high quality care to enable them to live an independent life as part of their community. Yet the political rhetoric implies that is what matters to voters. The political will to find a solution for the poultry industry, for the HGV sector, for the fuel pumps must extend to solutions for people who need care and support. The government must take action and the public must hold them to account.
There is an immediate need to address the emergency facing social care. At a minimum there is a need for a plan that:-
- Immediately extends emergency funding for social care to ensure that all parts of the sector can continue to comply with Covid-19 requirements around testing, IPC, staff sick pay etc…
- Provides a fully flexible workforce fund which can be used to target retention and supporting the wellbeing of existing staff
- Pays all care workers a retention bonus, to reward those who have shouldered the burden of care during the darkest of times
- Puts care workers on the shortage occupation list now to enable the rapid filling of vacancies
- Carries out an independent review of care workers pay and commit to a reform agenda that enables better pay, terms and conditions for staff
- Delays the implementation of mandatory vaccination in care home settings, and implement at a time when it has been agreed across all of health and care
Think people first – whether it is if flu, fuel, food or festivities – the people who rely on care and support need the government to understand the implications on their lives first – they won’t appear in a KPI or a stat – but their lives matter – and social care matters to us all.