The government’s extension of the Infection Control Fund (ICF) last week is “too little, too late”, a provider body has said.
The National Care Forum made the criticism after the Department of Health and Social Care announced that an additional £388 million would be made available to prevent the spread of infection in social care settings.
Running until March 2022, most of the funding (£237m) has been ring-fenced for infection control measures, while £25m will support care workers to access COVID-19 and flu vaccines over winter and £126.3 million will be assigned for testing costs.
It is not yet known what proportion of these funds will be available for home care.
Commenting on the news, Vic Rayner (pictured), CEO of the NCF, said: “At the eleventh hour, the government has finally announced an extension to the funding for Adult Social Care to support the delivery of care services in a Covid-safe environment. The existing funding came to an end on 30th September, the very same day that the government announced the extension. How it expects providers of care to plan and sustain services with the last minute nature of this extension is a mystery.”
Rayner explained that while the £388m funding is welcome, it represents a 23% reduction of equivalent funding provided by the government in only July of this year, and a 44% reduction of that provided in April of this year.
“Yet for care services, nothing has changed in terms of the areas that the fund is intended to support,” she continued.
“The testing regime remains, the strictures around visiting are still in place, there are extra conditions around vaccination ongoing with more on the horizon, isolation for staff working with clinically vulnerable people is still required and infection control measures including the restriction of staff movement remain a firm requirement. This is before taking into consideration the £100 million of additional costs directly to care homes for implementing mandatory vaccinations that the governments’ own impact assessments determined.”
The Homecare Association said it is awaiting the grant determination letter, which will confirm the breakdown of the funding and how it relates to home care.
CEO Dr Jane Townson said: “News of an eleventh-hour extension to infection control funding is very welcome. Home care providers were really worried about how they were going to pay staff for absence due to self-isolation, and for the time required for routine testing and vaccination against COVID-19 and influenza.
“We still don’t know, however, what proportion of these funds will be available for homecare and will have to wait for further government guidance.
“Home care providers continue to experience serious staffing shortages and need all possible support to maintain continuity of care for older and disabled people.”