Four Challenges Facing Social Care Following Covid-19
“In the 12 months since the UK entered its first lockdown, the number of elderly people living in social care settings has dropped by around 10% overall,” states Healthcare Management Solutions CEO Tony Stein in the latest issue of The Carer Digital.
This points to one of the major challenges facing the social care sector in a world after Covid-19. While the average occupancy numbers are down, so too are the numbers of people actively look for care. In his article, Mr Stein reminds us that the Care Act is in place to ensure that local authorities oversee the availability of adequate social care provision in their areas. However, they are unable to financially increase fees to providers in order to help them survive at current occupancy levels.
Mr Stein highlights four significant challenges facing social care following the Covid-19 pandemic.
How will Social Care Settings Survive When Government Support is Withdrawn?
During the pandemic, central government support has been vital in sustaining the care sector. Without this support, Mr Stein argues that the burden of extra resources and emergency funding would have fallen to investors, lenders and landlords. “Once central government financial support is withdrawn, and this must happen eventually, there will be casualties, thus reducing the available provision of beds at a time when the elderly population is growing.”
The Financial Cost of Adapting Social Care Settings
Mr Stein points out that analysis of the pandemic has started to indicate that the size and layout of care settings have had an impact on death rates. “There is a detailed study in Scotland, carried out by the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, that clearly shows that larger homes had proportionately higher mortality rates, however, this could be because larger homes are generally located in areas of higher population density.” Such findings may point to a need to adapt existing facilities, build smaller settings, or relocate them to less densely populated environments. He adds that all of the above would of course require funding beyond current fee levels.
Maintaining the Safety of Social Care Staff and Residents During a Pandemic
The extra costs of ensuring residents and staff in social care settings remained safe during the pandemic required emergency support from central government. This enabled providers to access adequate PPE, buy much-needed equipment and cover voids in beds. The challenges of the pandemic also required extra staff, financial support for existing staff through the furlough scheme and sick pay. Mr Stein adds: “One thing is for sure, and that is that funding needs to allow providers to offer sick pay to ensure that employees are not forced, through economic need, to attend work when feeling ill.” Reflecting on the differing approaches of local authorities in distributing the emergency funding, Mr Stein goes on to argue the case for a centrally-funded national care service to manage this in the future.
How will Local Authorities Recover from Additional Spending?
As a result of the pandemic, local authorities will have incurred additional spending, and not just in assisting social care settings. Traditional revenue streams such as parking and business rates have inevitably been affected by the restrictions. In addition, high street stores closing and higher unemployment will also have had a huge impact. Mr Stein shares his concerns that this will only increase the “postcode lottery” of local authorities being able to meet their obligations to fund care.
Mr Stein remains hopeful that a detailed analysis of the impacts of Covid-19 on social care settings will help inform decisions around dealing with future pandemics. However, he stresses the importance of protecting existing services to provide beds for the interim.
You can read the full article in The Carer Digital by clicking here.
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