Local authorities in England have been given an extra £120m to be spent on addressing the ‘pressing staff shortages’ in social care brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was announced yesterday.
The Department of Health and Social Care has said the cash will tackle sharply rising absences among social care staff who have tested positive or have to self-isolate.
The ‘staff capacity fund’ is aimed at providing additional staff where shortages arise, support administrative tasks so experienced and skilled staff can focus on providing care, and help existing staff take on additional hours if they wish with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs, it added.
The announcement comes after a National Care Forum (NCF) survey earlier this month found some care providers are reporting over half of their staff off work at once.
The latest Office for National Statistics data found that Covid-19 accounted for over a quarter (27.6%) of all care home deaths in the week ending 8 January in England and Wales – with 824 people dying, up from 661 the week before.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive for providers’ body Care England, said they will be ‘asking the DHSC to keep close tabs on the dissemination in order that funds arrive at the front line where they are needed and that no money is wasted in a spaghetti of bureaucracy’.
He continued: ‘We want to work with the DHSC to ensure that the Staff Capacity Fund delivers to the front line and is suitably flexible to reflect the crisis whereby providers are struggling with staff illness and absenteeism in the same way as their colleagues in the NHS are.’
Care England has suggested the fund be put toward bonus payments for staff ‘who have worked tirelessly’ and ‘golden hello’ payments to encourage new staff to join. Other recommendations included support around nurse placements or apprenticeship schemes, and staff mental health.
NCF executive director Vic Rayner said: ‘It is important that government has recognised the very real staffing crisis affecting social care – and the support on the table today must be kept under constant review – this crisis is not going away anytime soon.’
Health secretary 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.’
The £120m funding is in addition to the £149m announced in December to support the rapid testing of staff and facilitate visits from loved ones where possible in social care.
Last week, care home nurses told Nursing in Practice that they would like to be able to vaccinate their own residents without the supervision of primary care network teams in the fight against Covid-19.