Social care faces a “dangerous scenario” of most care providers going into the red this winter unless the government gives councils more funding to support them manage the impact of Covid-19.
That was the warning from Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president James Bullion, in an appearance before the House of Commons health and social care select committee yesterday.
ADASS estimated that one-third of providers were currently making a loss because of the additional costs from Covid-19 – including personal protective equipment and covering staff sickness – and reduced income as a result of service reductions, Bullion told MPs.
This is despite councils stepping in to cover costs, making use of the £3.7bn in un-ringfenced funding allocated to authorities by government to meet the costs of the coronavirus.
However, Bullion warned that councils were running out of this cash and could not continue to support providers in the way they have done without extra funding.
The government has separately provided £600m to help care homes in particular manage infection control – but Bullion said this was “very welcome but very narrow” as it was focused on managing staff sickness and minimising staff movement.
He warned: “There’s a very dangerous scenario where most providers start to make a loss this winter. I would urge common sense to prevail as the outcome of the recent social care taskforce and to extend in-year some of the payments we’ve received so that we can cope with the winter period.”
The taskforce he referenced was set up to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission in the sector, between people receiving care and support and social care staff. Bullion is among the members, a point he mentioned to MPs.
‘Business as usual’ returning
Responding to Bullion’s comments, United Kingdom Homecare Association policy director Colin Angel said: “Central government funding passed to providers through local councils has undoubtedly shielded the social care sector from market failures, particularly when referrals of new packages of care had almost completely ceased. Referrals have started to pick-up, but the ongoing costs of additional PPE are enormous and will be longstanding.
“Regrettably, the message from many councils to their providers is that financial support is coming to an end. Commissioning is returning to ‘business as usual’, including the highly undesirable practices of payment-by-the-minute and fee rates which were unsustainable, even before the pandemic began.”
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents many independent care homes, said: “Care England echoes the severity of these claims and calls for a long-term commitment to the adult social care sector. In addition, short-term funding is necessary to support social care providers including an extension to the infection control fund. Thus far many providers’ costs have not been covered by the temporary funding which has compounded the financial pressures upon them.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the challenges facing the social care sector and we are doing everything we can to support it. We have provided councils with access to an additional £1.5bn for adult and children’s social care in 2020-21 and we have made £3.7bn available to councils in England so they can address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care, as well as a £600m infection control fund.”