The government has announced details of how round two of the Infection Control Fund (ICF) will be distributed to care providers in England, across all settings.
The £546 million grant will be split between care homes and community care providers, with 71% (387.5m) allocated to care homes, and 29% (£158.5m) allocated to community care providers, including domiciliary care, extra care and supported living.
Under the new guidance, local authorities are obliged to pass 80% of the funding to care homes on a ‘per bed’ basis and to CQC-regulated community care providers, including those that support the self-funded market, on a ‘per user’ basis.
The remaining 20% will be allocated by local authorities to care homes or community care providers and support wider workforce resilience.
The first tranche of the fund was paid to local authorities on October 1 and the second tranche is set to be paid in December.
The government said it expects local authorities to take “no longer than 20 working days” to pass on their allocated funding to care providers and that the grant is fully spent on infection control measures by March 31, 2021.
Commenting on the news Colin Angel, policy director at United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), told HCI that round two of the ICF is a “significant improvement for the home care sector”.
The UKHCA has been pressing the government to ensure home care services are covered by the ICF, rather than relying on a postcode lottery of individual council’s decisions.
“UKHCA expects councils to distribute the Infection Control Fund to homecare providers according to the conditions set-out in the grant determination letter. This means that councils must act quickly to pay all qualifying providers, not just those with which the council trades; and not adding levels of unnecessary bureaucracy or reporting,” Angel said.
The funding can now be used to pay the wages of staff who are sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19.
The 80% allocation must not be used to pay for the cost of purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), the guidance states, but local authorities may use 20% of the grant on “other COVID-19 infection control measures”, including the purchase of PPE.
Last month, the government announced that health and social care workers will receive an “uninterrupted supply” of PPE from November.
Commenting on this funding restriction, Angel said: “Some providers will be astonished that the Infection Control Fund cannot be used to cover their largest cost area – the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“This is because government intends the PPE Portal to be available to home care providers registered with the Care Quality Commission. The quantities of Free PPE available through the portal do not yet match the requirements of most providers, but were increased last week and (for many providers) will be increased again in coming weeks. We recommend that all providers ensure they are signed-up to use the PPE Portal.”
A list of examples of ways in which providers can spend the funding as part of the ‘per beds’ or ‘per user’ allocation can be found here.