I received the briefing below today from the Devon County Council Health and Social Care Portfolioholder.

Coronavirus is now sweeping through care homes which have become the new frontline in fighting the virus.

The information below should be read against a backdrop of crippling government funding cuts to adult social care over the past decade, which has fuelled a growing crisis. 

I very much hope that if there is one silver lining to this dark cloud, it will be that our public services, including the care sector (for both adults, people with learning disabilities and children) will be recognised fully and funded accordingly. ……

Further financial support to social care sector

As you will be aware, we are working in partnership with our health service colleagues and the social care and voluntary sectors and community groups to ensure that vulnerable people in Devon continue to receive the support they need.

The social care sector, and the various markets of care within it, are under enormous pressure right now in the collective response to coronavirus. This note is to keep Members informed of our strategy for supporting the social care sector in Devon throughout coronavirus and beyond. We have made three important decisions since March designed to provide stability to the social care sector with additional funding and support.

We promised care providers that we would pay for their additional Personal Protective Equipment, (masks, visors, gloves, aprons, hand sanitiser etc), and that we would continue to fund placements with them even if that placement became vacant. You will also be aware that the domiciliary care market in particular, nationally and in Devon, has struggled with recruitment and comparatively high turnover of staff compared to other professions, which is why you will be aware of our continued efforts to support this particular sector of social care, regularly reviewing our fees and developing our highly successful Proud to Care recruitment campaign to boost recruits to the care sector.  This sector of the social care market in particular has been a priority to us, even more so in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Therefore two weeks ago, we announced we had increased the rates that we pay domiciliary care providers in order to meet their additional costs as a consequence of coronavirus, and to a level that we believe can enable them to increase the pay to their care workers.  This decision will further boost recruitment to the sector, and help care providers retain staff.   This has been a long term decision – we intend for this package of support to remain beyond coronavirus.

Today we are announcing a further package of investment, this time to the care home sector in Devon.  The funding over the next six months will come in two phases.  Initially we will increase our fees by 5 per cent for all of our commissioned placements in their homes. Secondly, the Government has instructed social care authorities to work with NHS colleagues to ensure timely discharge from hospital for patients who do not have acute healthcare needs.  Therefore, we will also increase funding further by an additional 4 per cent of our commissioned placements in homes that support the Government’s request regarding discharged patients from hospital.  Our additional funding now totals £8 million to support domiciliary care and residential care markets during the pandemic.

We have also promised care home providers that we will consider as a matter of urgency the wage structure within that market and will consider further financial support in our funding consultation with them ahead of the 2021/22 financial year. In addition to our support to domiciliary care and now the care home markets, we are also considering how we can support other sectors of social care including supported living, day opportunities, and Direct Payments.  We will be saying more on these soon.

Finally, for your information, we will be announcing our decision today to care home providers and informing the media next week of our continued support to the incredible care workers (in all of their roles) within our Devon social care sector.  I am sure that you, like I, will continue our support to them, our own DCC social care workforce, and our NHS colleagues during these challenging times.