A £269m funding package to boost social care staffing levels and care home testing has been announced by the government.
The package includes £120m for local authorities to raise staffing levels and a £149m grant system to support increased care home testing.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) 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 new funding is designed to combat the impact of the new COVID variant which has resulted in a sharp rise in staff absences across the country.
It is designed to: provide additional care staff where shortages arise; support administrative tasks so experienced and skilled staff can focus on providing care; and help existing staff take on additional hours if they wish with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs.
Additionally, the £149m funding, which will be available later this month, is designed to support the delivery of later flow device testing in care homes.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, said: “We want to work with the department to ensure 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.”
Vic Rayner, Chief Executive of the National Care Form, added: “It is positive that the government has taken note of the extreme staffing pressure that care providers across the country are experiencing.
“The funding announced and confirmed today is welcome news, but must be subject to continuous review.
“Communities across the country desperately need care organisations to be properly supported now and in the future so that they are ready and able to face every twist and turn of this pandemic.”
Skills for Care CEO, Oonagh Smyth, said: “ We know from the Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set that sickness rates have increased during the pandemic, and feedback from our employer networks is that staff sickness and absences are creating huge challenges for services, so this funding to help the sector tackle staffing and testing issues is welcome.
“We will continue to work with the sector’s employers to help them find and keep people with the right values and skills needed to join a social care workforce who have played such a central role in keeping the people they work with safe and well.”