It is “almost certain” care homes will have to close due to Covid-19, a new report from Essex County Council has said.
It leaves the uncomfortable reality that some elderly residents will have to face the upset and trauma of being moved away from familiar surroundings if providers close in the face of unprecedented financial pressure.
Their families may also have to travel further to visit them, Labour group leader, councillor Ivan Henderson has said.
There are around 1,700 care vacancies within care homes in Essex, leading to concerns that many are not getting the level of business that keeps them viable.
The care home death toll earlier in the year appears to be leaving many wary about putting their loved ones in a care home, where during the height of the pandemic visitors were not allowed to enter in a bid to protect those residents inside.
Essex County Council’s half yearly report has revealed a £4.1million underspend in health and adult social care.
Within that budget a reduced volume in older people in residential and domiciliary care has left the council £3.4million better off.
Cabinet member for adult social care, Councillor John Spence, said at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, October 20: “Our care standards are holding up, domiciliary care volumes are actually increasing somewhat.
“It is true that the numbers in residential care have reduced below the budget level.
“That is causing significant levels of vacancy in care homes across Essex.”
The county council has now admitted that many providers will probably not survive the crisis – this risk assessed at being ‘almost certain’.
“In addition to the known pressures there is a high risk of provider failure in this challenging economic climate,” a statement to cabinet said.
“Failure of a provider generates another huge workload for a number of different professions in addition to adult social care and at short notice. We have this risk assessed at ‘almost certain’ on the corporate risk register.”
Cllr Henderson said: “I want Essex County Council to ensure there is a plan in place to keep these care homes open.
“Where is the care going to be provided for people who need that care?
“And what is the overall picture of our care sector in Essex? It’s quite a worrying situation.
“If you are making those comments in a report it points to a very worrying situation.”
Essex County Council has admitted the “exceptional pressure” adult social care has experienced and continues to face in providing front line services to the county’s most vulnerable citizens, as a result of the pandemic.
Especially the additional pressures, as a result of the council having to work through a backlog of work arising from hospital discharges, during March to August, has forced the council to tap into £1.3million of reserves to support staff.
However, it is the forecast of provider failure that is most worrying.
Cllr Henderson said: “If they are running below the threshold of their viability they could be in trouble and then we may have a shortage of care in the future.
“If your home closes it can be so distressing for the residents but equally for the family.
“This is a worrying report and councillors should be being given much more detail over this.”
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We have a detailed process in place to review the resilience of our care providers. Providers can fail as a result of Care Quality Commission quality issues, costs and finances or the provider’s decision to change the way the operate. We continue to keep the situation under review.”