The government has announced £120 million in funding to boost staffing levels across the social care sector.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new funds would help increase workforce capacity for care homes and domiciliary care providers hit by staff absences during the coronavirus pandemic.
The news comes four days after the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) called for an immediate cash injection and new recruits to support the “exhausted” social care workforce amid rising absence rates.
ADASS said “alarming gaps” are appearing in social care teams through COVID infection, self-isolation and fatigue.
The funding will be given to local authorities to help provide additional care staff where shortages arise, support administrative tasks and help existing staff to take on additional hours with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs.
It comes on top of the £149 million announced in December to support the roll out of rapid Covid-19 testing.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This funding will bolster staffing numbers in a controlled and safe way, whilst ensuring people continue to receive the highest quality of care.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken steps to protect care homes, including increasing the testing available for staff and residents, providing free PPE, and investing billions of pounds of additional funding for infection control.
“Help is on the way with the offer of a vaccine, with over forty percent of elderly care home residents having already received their first dose.”
The DHSC said that the funding will be available later this month, so local authorities can take action quickly to respond to the pandemic.
Commenting on the staff capacity fund, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “We want to work with the DHSC to ensure that the Staff Capacity Fund delivers to the front line and is suitably flexible to reflect the crisis whereby providers are struggling with staff illness and absenteeism in the same way as their colleagues in the NHS are.
“Staff are our most precious resource and we want to do all that we can to support them especially in these incredibly difficult times.”
Last week, the National Care Forum (NCF) revealed that care providers across the UK are reporting staff absence rates of up to 50%.
In its snapshot survey, individual services reported between an 11% and 40% staff absence rate in the week commencing January 1, with some services revealing that over half of their staff were absent.
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF said: “The announcement today of £120m funding to local authorities to facilitate urgent support for staffing is welcome.
“The funds must be dispatched urgently to providers to address the immediate staff shortages. Funding is needed first and foremost to maximise the contribution of the existing workforce, enabling provider organisations to address immediate staff pressures. For some providers this will mean paying existing staff to work additional hours, to overstaff services to cope with short notice absences, and to reward and support those who have been at the frontline of this pandemic, without relief, for the last 10 months.
“In addition, the funding must be available to enable rapid recruitment at a local level which uses the best of the practices developed during this pandemic – utilising technology, rapid training and fast track DBS. The acute challenges we are seeing in hospitals across the country are also happening in social care – right here, right now. It is important that government has recognised the very real staffing crisis affecting social care – and the support on the table today must be kept under constant review – this crisis is not going away anytime soon.”