STATE OF CARE: CQC reveals ‘severe’ toll of COVID-19 pandemic on social care

State of Care

The severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the social care sector has been revealed by the CQC.

In its annual State of Care report, the CQC shows the heavy toll the crisis has taken on the social care workforce and lays bare the fragile financial state of care providers.

The report highlights the previous Competition and Markets Authority’s market study into residential and nursing homes for older people which found that the current model of service provision cannot be sustained without additional public funding.

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CMA analysis suggested that the quarter of care homes with more than 75% of their residents funded by the local authority were the most at risk of going out of business.

The CQC’s Market Oversight report in March 2020 said any further shocks to the labour market would increase market fragility, place more pressure on local authority finances and possibly increase unmet needs.

Service users and care professionals have highlighted concerns about low staffing in care homes to the CQC. The State of Care report notes that care worker turnover rates climbed from 32% in 2014/15 to 39% in 2019/20.

Staffing pressures have been exacerbated during the pandemic with 7.5% of working days lost to sickness (including self-isolation and shielding) up to August 2020 during the COVID-19 period, compared with 2.7% pre-COVID-19.

The report revealed “unprecedented” levels of anxiety amongst the social care workforce with staff fearful of passing the virus onto their family and worried about a lack of access to testing.

It says some care homes were unable to take in new admissions during the peak of the pandemic due to staff absence, which, in turn, increased financial pressures on providers with low occupancy.

The CQC said the recovery in admissions had been slower for self-funded places than for those funded by the local authority.

The report states: “Social care’s longstanding need for reform, investment and workforce planning has been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic. The legacy of COVID-19 must be the recognition that issues around funding, staffing and operational support need to be tackled now – not at some point in the future.

“An important legacy of this crisis must be the value that we place on social care as an essential service, core to delivering the frontline response to this crisis, and to ensure everyone understands that people who work in social care are key workers, in every sense.

“We support this call for parity. The pandemic has powerfully underlined the essential value of social care in helping people to live the lives they want to lead. To ensure the very best care and support for people in the future, there needs to be a new deal for the care workforce – one that develops clear career progression, secures the right skills for the sector, better recognises and values staff, invests in their training and supports appropriate professionalisation.”

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The author Lee Peart

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