CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Council injects £11m into adult social care

More than £11million is set to be pumped into adult social care after Essex County Council invoked special urgency powers to help tackle the coronavirus threat.

Essex County Council (ECC) is set to agree additional funding for adult social care by drawing down £11.4million from reserves, including £10million from emergency reserves, to help providers cope with the anticipated demands placed upon them.

In addition it is giving directors in adult social care power to vary contracts with domiciliary care providers to address issues caused by the crisis.

Additional funding will ensure providers can cut low priority homecare visits, while still retaining funding, enabling them to increase capacity and give them more resilience to cope with staff sickness.

The council also aims to allow flexibility for providers to give additional support and provide a fund to pay overtime where necessary to meet a temporary increase in demand.

The council also wants to provide funding to compensate for the loss of income where the council is unable to pass on charges to service users and provide care and support to people on direct payments, where they need to change provider as a result of illness.

The frail and elderly are the most vulnerable to Covid-19.

The health and care sectors are likely to be significantly affected and face high demand and pressures on workforce due to Covid-19 related absences.

In answer, urgent preparation to ensure an effective response to Covid-19 is taking place across the council.

A statement in a cabinet decision report to ECC said: “It will be vitally important during the period of the Covid-19 response to sustain providers of social care to make sure that they are able to continue in business in the face of demand and workforce pressures.

“The council is taking firm and swift action to protect the provider market and wishes to share the approach set out in this paper with providers to assure them during this period.

“This decision focuses on providers within the homecare market including within supported living, extra care and for those who manage their own direct payments.

“As the service responds to the developing crisis, further decisions will need to follow in due course.”

The report adds that it is likely that Essex acute hospitals will face increased demand and pressures, meaning that adult social care will need to ensure that wherever possible people with social care related needs are able to be cared for out of hospital, freeing capacity for people with Covid-19 related complications.

The council is taking steps to ensure maximum flexibility to procure facilities such as care home beds to support this drive, but any additional expenditure required will be subject to a separate decision.

The report added: “The council is expecting extremely challenging conditions as Covid-19 takes effect.

“Adult social care needs to be able to take all necessary action to fulfil its duties during this period and reassure providers, service users, and partners in the NHS of its capacity to do so.

“In the budget on March 11, the Chancellor announced £5billion nationally to support the NHS to treat coronavirus patients, including maintaining staffing levels, local authority actions to support social care services and vulnerable people, ensuring funding is available so other public services are prepared and protected.

“It is expected that an allocation of this fund will support costs outlined in this report.

“However, the allocation methodology for this fund, how much ECC will receive and when we will receive it has not been confirmed.

“Given the urgency of the need to support social care providers, the council cannot wait for that announcement.

“In the interim the costs will be covered by the council’s emergency contingency reserve.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter