Swindon and Wiltshire have been awarded £1.3million in new government funding to boost staffing levels in the social care sector.
Staff absence rates in care homes and the home care sector have increased significantly across the country in the wake of the new Covid-19 variant, due to workers testing positive or having to self-isolate.
The funding announced this week – £120million nationally – will increase workforce capacity and provide better protection and support for staff and residents in care homes and those receiving help in their own homes.
The funding can:
• Provide additional care staff where shortages arise
• Support administrative tasks so experienced and skilled staff can focus on providing care
• Help existing staff to take on additional hours if they wish with overtime payments or by covering childcare costs
All the funding will be available later this month, so local authorities can take action quickly to respond to the pandemic.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This funding will bolster staffing numbers in a controlled and safe way, while ensuring people continue to receive the highest quality of care.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken steps to protect care homes, including increasing the testing available for staff and residents, providing free PPE and investing billions of pounds of additional funding for infection control.
“Help is on the way with the offer of a vaccine, with over 40% of elderly care home residents having already received their first dose.”
Many local authorities across the country already have staffing initiatives in place to increase capacity and address staffing issues.
These include care worker staff banks where new recruits are paid during training, redeployment models where DBS-checked staff are trained and moved into operational roles and end-to-end training and recruitment services.
The £120million fund will ensure such initiatives can continue and help other local authorities implement similar schemes.
Separately, a £149million grant scheme has been announced to support rapid testing of care home staff and facilitate visits from family and friends where possible.
The funding will help care home providers with the costs incurred with testing, and the fund can be used for:
• Training staff to carry out LFD testing;
• Recruiting staff to facilitate increased testing;
• creating a separate testing area where staff and visitors can be tested and wait for their result. This
includes the cost of reduced occupancy where this is required to convert a bedroom into a testing
area, but only if this is the only option available to the care home; and
• Paying for costs associated with disposal of LFD tests and testing equipment.
Local authorities will be required to pass on 80% of the funding to care homes on a per beds basis, with 20% used at the local authority’s discretion to support the care sector in delivering additional lateral flow device testing.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “We know how dedicated care home staff have been, and how hard they have worked in extremely challenging circumstances. We are extremely grateful to them for stepping up and helping to care for and protect our most vulnerable This additional £120million will support social care to cope where there are pressing staff shortages due to the pandemic and comes on top of the £149million to support safer testing.”