Professor Shereen Hussein, PSSRU Kent
The COVID19 pandemic has created urgent and unparalleled pressures on health systems across the world including the United Kingdom. Countries have responded with considerable financial and logistics support from the creation of emergency hospital in record time to working with industries to speed up the production of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE).
The impact on the health care workforce is huge, yet the impact on long term care (LTC) frontline workers is even larger. LTC workers serve the most vulnerable in society, work in fragmented arrangements in people’s homes, the community and care homes. They mostly work on insecure contracts, have other caring responsibilities and many are migrant workers. The impact on their wellbeing, in its broadest definition, is considerable. Many countries have put in place plans to ensure income security, especially for those at low paying jobs. For example, the UK government put in place various measures to support companies and reduce the chances of laying off staff. However, many British care workers would not be entitled to these schemes as they are not regular employees, but work on zero-hour contracts. Some of LTC workers will not be able to receive paid sick leave in case of self-isolation.
In Canada, one approach was to increase child-benefit allowance to ensure some income at the household level, however, this does not specifically address the vulnerability of LTC frontline workers to income insecurity.
Furthermore, there are also anecdotal evidence of limited PPE for LTC staff and lack of training to use these effectively putting LTC workers’ health at risk. From the UK to Australia, concerns have been raised in relation to limited availability of PPE for health and care workers in general and for home care workers in particular.
On the other hand, there are efforts by many care providers in attempts to raise awareness of the support needed for care organisations from the UK, Europe and beyond. Non-governmental and charitable organisations have produced various guidance on the impact of COVID19 including those by UKHCA, EASPD and SUPPORT for care organisations and individuals receiving care. Yet, the direct impact of COVID19 on frontline care workers mental, physical and emotional wellbeing has not yet been explored. At the PSSRU, we aim to capture some of this impact in England through our ongoing projects such as the Retention and Sustainability of Social Care Workforce (RESSCW) and Developing a scale of work-related quality of life for adult social care staff (ASCOT-STAFF).
Hussein, S. (2020) Report: Impact of COVID-19 on Frontline Long Term Care Workers’ Wellbeing. Article in LTCcovid.org, International Long-Term Care Policy Network, CPEC-LSE.