Local authorities that fail to support social care providers during the COVID-19 crisis will be named and shamed by the United Kingdom Home Care Association.
UKHCA chief executive Dr Jane Townson issued the warning as councils continue to ignore requests to release extra funding, despite the government making £1.6 billion available to strengthen care for vulnerable people.
“Local Authorities have been given the money – it’s sitting in their bank accounts. But they don’t want to send it out to providers for reasons best known to themselves,” Townson said in an interview with home care software supplier, CarePlanner, last week.
“Some of [the £1.6bn] has got to be used for homelessness, but the bulk of it should be for frontline social care services. How much of it has actually made its way to any social care providers yet? Virtually none. And that’s what we’re spending most of our time trying to sort out,” she said in the interview, shared with Home Care Insight.
UKHCA has been working closely with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) to try and address the most pressing issues facing care providers.
“At the beginning of March, we emailed them and said: ‘Would you be willing to do some joint guidance for local authorities on how to support providers during COVID-19?’ They agreed and some guidance was issued on the 13th of March. That went to all local authorities, which mostly ignored it,” Dr Townson said.
The guidance focussed on three key areas. First, a fee uplift to cover the increase in the National Living Wage. Secondly, to start paying providers on planned commission work, rather than in arrears as standard. Thirdly, to provide a temporary uplift to cover the additional costs that have arisen due to COVID-19. These would include: PPE, sick pay, as well as remote working and travel costs where relevant.
Trying to get Local Authorities to pay attention to their guidance has proven difficult for UKHCA.
Data collected by the organisation from 81 councils shows that around 60% had failed to increase their funding to even cover the rise of the National Living Wage that came into effect on April 1.
“We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on LGA and ADASS to try and get them to force their members to do what’s right. But they say they’re a member organisation: all they can do is give them strong guidance. They (LGA and ADASS) said they want the opportunity to work with their members first. They’ve said, ‘give us a list of the ones that aren’t behaving’. The Minister for Care is also very actively engaged with this issue,” said Dr Townson.
“So the plan is: raising concerns with ADASS and LGA about the councils that are doing nothing. If that doesn’t work, go to the Minister for Care in the Department of Health to personally phone them up. Then if that doesn’t work we go to the media to name and shame them.
“We have already given notice on everybody that the timescale for that process isn’t going to be a long time. It’s already the 9th of April. If the National Living Wage went up on the first of April, what possible excuse is there for them not addressing that?”
On the same day that this interview was conducted, the LGA and ADASS suggested that costs for social care providers were likely to increase in the region of 10% this month, and that local authorities would need to consider how best to make additional payments, which could include directly meeting additional costs, uplifts to fees, or through support in kind.
But care leaders expressed disappointment over these proposals, stating that a 10% increase is “simply insufficient”.
UKHCA policy director, Colin Angel, said the guidance is a “positive move” after several weeks of delay, but the success of this is “entirely dependent” on each council acting on the recommendations “immediately”.
“Regrettably, despite urgent representations from provider organisations, local government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been based on their own short-term budgetary considerations, rather than on meeting the anticipated cost of care during an emergency situation,” he added.