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COVID-19 and adult social care

26 March 2020

Social care has always been a key part of the overall world of care and health. Now, more than ever, social care has a vital and important part to play in supporting whole communities in the fight against COVID-19 and keeping many different groups of vulnerable people safe.

Social care covers the personal care and practical support many people as a result of age or physical disability, a learning disability or mental illness require with their day-to-day living activities. 

The social care sector is broad and offers a diverse mix of services, including mental health, learning disabilities, older people services in a variety of settings - care at home, residential care, supported living and many more. Our members support both older people and working age people who need assistance with day-to-day living, even during the peak period of the pandemic.

Care workers, managers, cleaners and cooks work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in social care. They toil in care homes, supported housing and in people’s own homes, supporting the most frail and vulnerable in our families and communities.

Care providers are working hard to prepare for the escalation of COVID-19. This includes refresher training on infection control, robust measures to ensure any visitors to care services are safe to enter, planning for how to keep going in the face of significant staff shortages and how to ensure the people they care for and their staff are kept safe and well.

Lack of personal protective equipment for care staff remains a pressing problem. The government has instigated the creation of a national supply distribution helpline and a promise that all care services will receive 300 face masks. However, care providers, particularly those supporting people in their own homes, are still struggling to get hold of all the PPE that they need.  Without the full set of PPE, providers are having to make very difficult decisions about whether or not they stay open for admissions, as they will not want to put existing residents and staff at risk from lack of necessary and required equipment. 

The newly announced emergency legislation with its extensive powers and the new hospital discharge regime make it clear that the expectations on care providers are ramping up even more. 

The government’s management plan of hospital discharges into the community, where many people from hospital will require ongoing care and support either in the community in their own homes, or in residential care settings needs to join up the health and care system, so that the care sector is given the priority help it needs to support the most vulnerable. Without testing, admissions to care homes from hospitals need to go into isolation as there is no way of knowing whether they are going to infect others, putting additional pressure on resources and the workforce.

The additional costs and the impact of staff shortages is a great cause for concern for many care providers. For small providers such an increase in costs could have detrimental effects in their ability to remain solvent. The local authority needs to play its part by supporting care providers with rates that cover the true costs of the care provided. We are hearing reports that this is not happening and that the additional funding announced by the government is not going to care providers. It is early days in determining how large an issue this is.

We are asking the government to prioritise testing for social care workers and service users to help manage the spread of the virus. No care home or domiciliary staff or carers have been tested. This means that if frontline staff have the coronavirus symptoms or live with someone who has, they have to isolate for up to 14 days, putting further pressure on an already stretched workforce.

Years of austerity and under-funding in the social sector have had its toll. For the health response to be effective, equal attention must be given to social care, so that the sector is not overwhelmed but can effectively play its part in keeping people safe and well. Care workforce – NHS employs 1.4 million people; social care employs 1.6 million people. Together the NHS and social care employ one in ten of working population.


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Note to Editors:§

  • The Care Provider Alliance (CPA) brings together the 10 main national associations which represent independent and voluntary adult social care providers in England.  We work to represent the sector and ensure a coordinated response to the major issues that affect it.
  • The Care Provider Alliance is an informal body with a rotating chair. Membership is of the representative associations with a national membership across the whole of England. However, some CPA members also represent services in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Together our members provide care and support to 1.2 million people through residential, home-based and community services, whether commissioned by local authorities and the NHS or privately purchased. Together our members employ over 620,000 care workers.
  • Our members’ services include residential and nursing care, homecare, supported living and extra care housing, shared lives schemes, advocacy and telephone helplines. They support children, adults of working age and older people. 
  • For more information on the Care Provider Alliance visit https://www.careprovideralliance.org.uk/
  • Media contact: Edna Petzen, edna.petzen@nationalcareforum.org.uk 07397 158596