Adult social care providers face a bill of up to £6.6bn from responding to Covid-19 from April to September this year, research for sector leaders has found.
Without additional government funding, providers will fail and the quality and safety of care will suffer, warned the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in the light of the research.
Personal protective equipment costs alone could top £4bn if providers follow guidance on use and because of the prices providers and councils have had to pay to source PPE, found the research for ADASS, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Care Providers Alliance (CPA).
The study by care market analysts LaingBuisson found providers also faced potential increased staffing bills of just over £1bn because of the impact of staff sickness and self-isolation and the need to take measures to manage infection control, such as ensuring staff only work in one care home. A further £700m was accounted for by the need for enhanced cleaning of care homes and increased overheads.
In addition to this £5.9bn in increased costs, the analysis found that providers could lose just over £700m in revenue, for example because of lower occupancy levels in care homes as a result of high numbers of deaths or lower admissions as a result of concerns over Covid-19.
Of the £5.9bn in additional costs, around £2.6bn was estimated as relating to services funded by self-funders or NHS clinical commissioning groups, with £3.3bn in estimated cost pressures on local authority-funded services.
While the local authority figure is technically within the £3.8bn that the government has provided to councils to meet the additional costs of Covid-19 so far, just £600m of this is dedicated social care funding, the infection control fund, and this is designed to support care homes catering for self-funders as well as those funded by local authorities. In addition, the fund is not supposed to be spent on PPE, and has been strongly criticised by council and provider leaders for the bureaucracy around accessing and accounting for the money.
Of the remaining £3.2bn, the LGA has calculated that 40% of this, around £1.3bn, has been used for adult social care.
‘Failed providers and compromised safety’
“This analysis underlines the huge financial pressures being faced by social care providers,” said ADASS president James Bullion. “Without the right levels of funding and support, providers will no longer be sustainable; safety will be compromised; quality of care will suffer; and people with care and support needs left unsupported. The government’s number one priority must be to protect social care.”
“This analysis needs to spark a fundamental debate about the ability of the care market to respond to the pandemic and what more can be done to support it,” said Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA community wellbeing board.
“We look forward to working with government on finding a solution to the immediate pressures facing the sector, including a significant further injection of funding, as well as agreeing a long-term, sustainable funding settlement for social care once this current crisis is over,” he added.
While the government has provided and funded some PPE directly, delivered through local resilience forums, a dedicated PPE portal for small providers and, in urgent cases, a National Supply Disruption Response service, providers, supported by councils, and sought to enhance manufacture and supply, providers and councils have repeatedly bemoaned the inflated prices they have had to pay for equipment.
The National Care Association, which represents small and medium-sized providers, has said that providers faced increases of over 400% in PPE prices in the earlier phases of the pandemic.
‘Injustice’ for self-funders
Over the weekend, Age UK warned that some of these additional costs were being passed to self-funding care users, saying it had been told of residents having a 15% extra charge on their fees to fund equipment, equivalent to almost £130 a week for the average private payer.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said this exacerbated the existing inequalities in the bills faced by self-funders for care.
“The fact that older people who pay for their own care home place routinely have to stump up more than 40% on top of what the state has to find is a long-running scandal, but these ‘Coronavirus bills’ make the injustice even worse,” she said. “They should be outlawed and care homes under acute financial pressure given the emergency government funding they need.”
Hudspeth, of the LGA, agreed, saying: “People living in care homes should not be penalised in this way and the cross-subsidy of fees by self-funders is one of the unfair aspects of the current system, which must be addressed as part of the long-term reform of social care.”
Hancock launches social care taskforce
Meanwhile, the government today launched a taskforce to oversee Covid-19 support to social care, particularly for care homes through the infection control fund, headed by former Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president David Pearson.
Speaking at today’s Downing Street briefing, Pearson said: “Our focus will be on stopping infection, while ensuring the wellbeing of all those who receive care and support, whether they live in care homes or at home.”
The taskforce will include representatives from ADASS, the LGA, the Care Providers Alliance, the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England, Healthwatch England and government departments.
During the briefing, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced the roll-out of coronavirus testing to residents and staff in all care homes for adults in England, not just those for people aged over 65 or with dementia, as before.
He said that the latter group of homes had been prioritised because of the higher risk associated with Covid-19 among older people, but there was now sufficient capacity to provide whole-home testing kits to homes for younger adults.
The announcement follows Care Quality Commission figures released last week showing a 134% increase in deaths among people with learning disabilities receiving care services from April 10 to May 15, compared with the same period last year.
Latest death toll
The news came as the Office for National Statistics published latest figures on the number of deaths from Covid-19 and other causes. These showed registered deaths in the week ending 29 May in care homes in England and Wales falling but still running equivalent numbers in previous years.
There were 2,503 deaths in care homes during that week, with 705 involving Covid-19, down from 3,193 the previous week (1,046) and from a high of 7,911 (2,794 from Covid) in the week ending 24 April. However, this was 819 higher than the average number of care home deaths for the equivalent week from 2015-19.
This means there have been 26,211 excess deaths in care homes since the week ending 13 March, when the ONS started recording deaths from Covid-19.