About this update
|Section / Question||3.06. Support for care sector staff and measures to ensure workforce availability ||
Overview: A Timeline
The social care action plan recognised the urgent need to increase the social care workforce during the pandemic “to cover for those who are not in work, and to relieve the pressure on those that are”. The action plan included an ‘ambition’ to attract 20,000 people into social care over 3 months.
On March 19, 2020, social care staff were designated as ‘key workers’ to enable them to continue to access childcare once schools were closed. On May 6, the government launched a dedicated CARE app to support the social care workforce during COVID-19, offering access to guidance, learning resources, discounts, and other support all in one place.
On May 11, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published guidance on maintaining the health and wellbeing of the adult social care workforce. This placed the responsibility on employers to check in on team members regularly, especially those who are working remotely. It stated that employers should encourage teams to create a wellness action plan so that employees can identify how to address what keeps individuals mentally well at work. This additionally suggested that employers should encourage those who are identified as being extremely clinically vulnerable to stay at home. Where this is not possible, they should be supported to work in roles or settings that have been assessed as lower risk.
On 15 May, the Government announced a new wellbeing package for social care staff delivered through the CARE app, including two new helplines, led by the Samaritans and Hospice UK. This is intended to help support care staff with their mental health and wellbeing, and support those who have experienced a traumatic death as part of their work.
On October 1, DHSC announced a second round of funding worth £546 million for the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund. This is to be extended until March 2021, following on from May 2020, when the fund was initially worth £600 million. The purpose of this fund is to support adult social care providers to reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission within and between care settings, in particular by helping to reduce the need for staff movements between sites. This includes ensuring that staff who are isolating in line with government guidance receive their normal wages, limiting all staff movement between settings unless necessary, limiting the number of different people from a home care agency visiting a particular individual, limiting or cohorting staff, supporting active recruitment of additional staff, and providing accommodation for staff who proactively choose to stay separate from their families.
On January 17, 2021, DHSC announced a £120 million Workforce Capacity Fund to help local authorities to boost staffing levels. The aim of this is to strengthen social care staff capacity so that safe and continuous care is achieved by all providers of adult social care. This additionally stated that providers should not be deploying people in care homes if these people are being deployed to provide care in other settings, unless in exceptional circumstances. This places the responsibility on local authorities for contacting private providers with excess capacity to redeploy these staff into other settings to best meet workforce demand. This fund can be used to pay overtime rates to encourage staff to work additional shifts, cover childcare costs to allow staff to take on hours they would usually be unable to work, and enable care providers to overstaff at pinch points to lessen the impact of any staff absences should they arise. Additionally, local authorities are responsible for considering whether there are trained individuals who have been made redundant from care providers which have exited the market and so would be able to transition quickly into a new care setting. There may be individuals without care experience who have recently been made redundant and may require support applying to the care sector and training.
On February 9, DHSC announced that the government was asking people to register their interest in taking up short-term paid work in the adult social care sector to meet urgent demand during winter.
On March 3, DHSC published guidance on restricting workforce movement between care settings. This stated that staffing requirements should be planned so that routine movement is not required to maintain safe staffing levels, with mitigations such as exclusivity contracts and block booking used to minimise staff movement where temporary staff are needed. Additionally, should a provider need to deploy an individual between two settings, they should ensure a 10-day interval between the individual attending the two settings. The individual must have a PCR negative test in the 7 days before starting the placement. Additionally, this states that providers should cohort staff to individual groups of residents and ensure staff movement is limited between these groups. Providers should take steps to limit the use of public transport by staff and discourage lift sharing arrangements.
In October 2021 the DHSC launched a national recruitment campaign highlighting the positive aspects of working in the social care sector. There are other measures in place to facilitate rapid recruitment to the sector, such as recruitment guidance and resources by Skill for Care (RecruitmentReady), and free rapid online induction and refresher training.
The Capacity Tracker, a web-based digital insight tool and the Adult Social Care Workforce Dataset are being used to monitor the situation. As of November 2021 the vacancy rate in social care was 9.2%
Published on November 3, the Adult social care: COVID-19 winter plan 2021 to 2022 sets out the key elements of national support available for the social care sector for winter 2021 to 2022. This will provide £162.5 million through the workforce recruitment and retention fund to support local authorities and providers to recruit and retain sufficient staff over winter, and support growth in workforce capacity of the existing workforce, until 31 March 2022.
The DHSC has made available guidance and resources to support the wellbeing of people working in health and social care, including a collaboration with charities that provide mental health support, and a risk reduction framework for providers to reduce the risk of infection for staff working in social care.
To release the recruitment pressures (old and new pressures stemming from the new wave of Omicron), in December 2021, the government announced that care workers, care assistants and home care workers will be added to the Shortage Occupation List as part of the health and care visa to make it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill employment gaps. The changes are planned to come into effect early 2022, initially for a period of 12 months. The inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List will stipulate an annual salary minimum of £20,480 for carers to qualify for the Health and Care visa and it will allow applicants and their dependents to benefit from fast-track processing, dedicated resources in processing applications and reduced visa fees.