The government has found £341m in Covid-related cash for adult social care following urgent warnings by sector leaders of the consequences of previous funding running dry at the end of this month.
The resources will extend the existing infection control fund (£202.5m) and fund rapid coronavirus testing for providers (£138.7m), from April onwards, while £594m has also been provided to the NHS to support hospital discharge, much of which will go on social care provision.
Today’s announcement came a day after social care leaders issued an urgent warning of the damaging consequences for services should existing Covid funding streams, due to end on 31 March, not be replaced. Kathy Roberts, chair of the Care Provider Alliance, said the situation had left services “balance on a financial cliff edge”.
It has been broadly welcomed by council leaders and care providers, though ministers faced criticism for the late timing of the announcement and that the resource was insufficient.
Funding streams extended and ceased
- Infection control fund: worth £1.15bn from May 2020 to March 2021, with £202.5m from April 2021 onwards. Funding channelled through local authorities to, mainly, fund care homes to pay staff to self-isolate and limit staff movement between homes.
- Rapid testing fund: worth £149m from January to March 2021, with extra £138.7m from April 2021. Funding channelled through councils to fund care homes to carry out rapid tests of staff and visitors.
- Hospital discharge funding: worth £588m from September 2020 to March 2021, with extra £594m from April to September 2021. Funding through NHS to resource six weeks of post-discharge support for people leaving wards and also designated settings for people discharged while Covid positive.
- Mental health discharge: £87m from April 2021 to support discharge of people from inpatient mental health settings. There was previous funding, worth £50m over the 2020-21 winter, for similar purposes.
- Workforce capacity fund: worth £120m from January to March 2021, paid to local authorities to bolster the social care workforce during the winter. There are no current plans to extend this.
Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the community wellbeing board at the Local Government Association (LGA), one of the organisations to make yesterday’s call, said: “It is good that the government has accepted our joint call with those who work in and use social care to extend this essential funding, so that people can continue to visit their friends and relatives in care settings, safely and securely.
“The extension of discharge funding is also important, providing much-needed certainty for health and care services in their vital ongoing work to support people out of hospital and to receive the right care at home.”
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president also welcomed the announcement, saying the extra resource would “provide some assurance and continuity over the next few months”.
However, he added that the government needed to use more of £21bn it allocated as a contingency, in relation to Covid-19, in last year’s spending review given the “long-lasting impact upon those of us with care and support needs, family carers and those working in adult social care”.
‘Lifeline for care providers’
The chief executive of independent providers’ umbrella body Care England, Martin Green, said: “This extension of funding represents a lifeline for care providers. We are pleased that the government has heeded the calls of Care England as without such funding the sector would be in jeopardy.”
It was also welcomed by Vic Rayner, executive director of not-for-profit providers’ representative body the National Care Forum, though she criticised the Department of Health and Social Care’s delay in making the decision and the DHSC’s failure to extend the £120m workforce capacity fund.
“The delay in announcing this funding has been a huge concern, and without this confirmation providers would have been left high and dry and found themselves faced with 31st March fixed term contract terminations whilst simultaneously being told the policy commitment to offer designated settings continues – an intolerable position for both providers and the communities that they serve.”
Rayner added: “There is no mention of an extension to the important workforce capacity fund brought in during January this year. In case the government had not noticed, the recruitment challenges facing the social care workforce will not disappear on the 1st April, and yet the funding appears to have!”