Social care sector to receive £269 million boost

Matt Hancock and Helen Whately have announced a new £120 million fund for local authorities to boost social care staffing levels, alongside £149 million grant system to support increased testing in care homes.

Staff absence rates have been rising sharply both in care homes and among home care staff, due to testing positive or having to self-isolate. The Health Secretary and Minister for Care say that the new funding will protect and support the social care sector, including care homes and domiciliary care providers, by increasing workforce capacity and increasing testing.

The new £120 million funding will help local authorities to boost staffing levels, a direct ask of the sector. The funding can: provide additional care staff where shortages arise; support administrative tasks so experienced and skilled staff can focus on providing care; and help existing staff to take on additional hours if they wish with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs.

The funding will also help to ensure that existing staffing initiatives in place to increase capacity and address staffing issues can continue, such as care worker staff banks where new recruits are paid during training, re-deployment models where DBS checked staff are trained and moved into operational roles, and end-to-end training and recruitment services.

The £120 million fund is in addition to the ring-fenced £149 million announced in December, which will be used to support rapid testing of staff testing and facilitate visits from family and friends where possible. Local authorities will be required to pass on 80 per cent of the funding to care homes on a per beds basis, with 20 per cent used at the local authorities discretion to support the care sector in delivering additional lateral flow device testing.

Matt Hancock said: “This funding will bolster staffing numbers in a controlled and safe way, whilst ensuring people continue to receive the highest quality of care. Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken steps to protect care homes, including increasing the testing available for staff and residents, providing free PPE and investing billions of pounds of additional funding for infection control. Help is on the way with the offer of a vaccine, with over 40 per cent of elderly care home residents having already received their first dose.”

Helen Whately said: “This additional funding gives a boost to the social care workforce during some of the most difficult days of this pandemic so far. Care workers have been doing the most amazing job throughout the pandemic. In challenging circumstances, they have been caring for some of the people most at risk from this virus with compassion and skill.

“This additional £120 million will support social care to cope where there are pressing staff shortages due to the pandemic and comes on top of the £149 million to support safer testing. We’re continuing to listen to care providers to make sure they have the help they need, from free PPE to extra testing, along with all the work to vaccinate care home residents, staff and the wider social care workforce.”

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Extra funding to fill staff shortages and free up more experienced colleagues to focus on providing care directly will help with the immediate impact of the virus. Social care has been on the frontline throughout the coronavirus pandemic and our dedicated staff rightly need as much support as possible during this incredibly challenging period.

“Going forward, all of those using and working in social care need a sustainable, long-term funding solution to how we provide care and support, which allows people to live the lives they want to lead. We look forward to government bringing forward its proposals at the earliest possible opportunity.”