Most adult day centres expected to close due to coronavirus

Most day centres will eventually have to close because of coronavirus – potentially impacting some of the most vulnerable in Essex.

Already a fifth of day centres have been forced to shut due to coronavirus.

Essex County Council (ECC) currently places over 2,100 adults each year into day services as part of a support package to needs including learning disabilities, mental health and physical and sensory impairment.

These services are traditionally building-based and have been contracted to provide a range of services including personal and practical care to support those that struggle to access their community independently, for training and skills development to support independence, work-based training and support, coordination of social and recreational activities, reducing social isolation, supported stimulating activities for people with profound multiple disabilities and carers respite.

To ensure the council has capacity and to ensure the financial stability of care providers, including Essex Cares Ltd, the council will continue to pay Essex Cares at the contractual value agreed by cabinet, for six months from April 1, even though the service will be different.

The council will also pay the other day care providers on a rolling basis to a maximum of six months, even if they provide fewer sessions, and pay for additional capacity where someone currently attending day care is unable to access their current provision and still requires alternative provision.

It means ECC will earmark a further £5.6 million to help fund adult social care in order to continue to support the most vulnerable service users, where centres are closing and to support sustainability of the market during the Covid-19 emergency.

A statement in a cabinet decision to ECC on March 27 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 day care providers to assure them during this period. This decision focuses on day care providers.

“Due to staff and service user sickness and requirement to isolate over the last two weeks we have already seen 23, as at March 24, of our 130 day centres close and had confirmation from a number more that they will be closing this week.”

The statement said that following the government announcement of strict social distancing rules on March 23, it is expected that most day centres will close.

“Some need to stay open where possible for the most vulnerable where there is no other community provision available and where they can safely do so,” added the statement.

“The council has taken a risk stratification approach to identify the range of alternative support required for service users who most rely on our day centres.”

The drawdown comes after ECC pledged £11.4 million from reserves on March 17 to support adult social care.

A further £18.6 million of funding to increase residential care capacity during the COVID-19 emergency was announced on March 23, thereby increasing the number of residential beds available, which will help free up urgently needed space within the NHS and local hospitals.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter