Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid has been urged to reinstate Covid funding for social care amid concerns over the financial health of the sector.
Public services union Unison and the Care Provider Alliance (CPA) have jointly written to Mr Javid asking for a reversal of the decision to end the £1.75bn adult social care infection control fund, which backed care providers to pay full wages to self-isolating staff from May 2020.
They also argued ending the infection control fund at the end of March this year – at a time when Covid-19 case rates were still high – was an ‘incredibly dangerous move’ that will ‘cost lives’.
The letter, seen by Nursing in Practice, said it was ‘beyond believe’ that ‘such a vital financial lifeline has been cut’, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis.
It continued: ‘The government should be encouraging and rewarding staff for doing the right thing by self-isolating, not making it impossible for them to feed their families.
‘Growing numbers of care workers are being forced to turn to food banks as budgets are stretched to breaking point. Others are having to leave jobs they love in search of better paid and more secure work,’ it added.
‘We urge you to reinstate the infection control fund immediately as a first step to improving funding and working conditions in the sector significantly. Anything less will drive more staff away and put lives and livelihoods at risk.’
Unison and the CPA also warned in the letter that major worker shortages in the care sector are already ‘undermining the quality of care provided across England’.
This is ‘preventing the discharge of NHS patients back into the community, consequently limiting access to medical services and piling more pressure on the system,’ they added.
Care Provider Alliance chair Professor Martin Green said: ‘Social care services protect some of the most frail and vulnerable people. This is why many of the restrictions that have been eased in the rest of society are still needed.
‘The burden on care providers is enormous. They no longer have the resources allocated through the infection control fund, but still face huge costs to comply with regulations.’
The call to reinstate the fund comes after the High Court ruled last week that government policy to discharge patients into care homes in England without testing them for Covid at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic was unlawful.