These substantive plans will need to be finalised and published by May 29, the government said in a letter to all relevant local authorities today.
This will result in more responsibilities for councils and their management of local care markets. The government said that private providers experiencing financial difficultly can approach local authorities for assistance. An extra £600m has been provided, alongside other previous government grant funding but the County Councils Network has warned that more may be needed as a result of this extra responsibility.
Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:
“Today’s guidance issued to local authorities on putting together care home support plans, is a clear vote of confidence in councils. It reflects the efforts they have made to protect residents, staff, and providers, and take the strain off the health service during the outbreak. Yesterday, the Housing Secretary said that the government’s focus will be on guiding care homes through the coming weeks, and we welcome the responsibility for being part of this: deaths in care settings are uncomfortably high currently and every single one is a tragedy.
“It is clear that if we are to bring down the ghastly death toll within care homes, a strong joint effort from the government, the NHS, councils, and care providers is necessary. We will step up and co-ordinate and consolidate efforts locally.
“However, make no mistake, this will be a huge undertaking for local authorities. While councils have market oversight for all care homes in their areas, plans will entail direct support for care providers that operate privately with no engagement with councils. In county areas, such providers make up the vast bulk of the market.
“The £600m announced in tandem with a responsibility to develop a plan within two weeks, is welcome. To date, the government has provided £1.16bn for pandemic-related costs for county authorities, but this was to cover all other related costs, ranging from children’s social care, highways and transport, homelessness and shielding the vulnerable.
“Roughly around 70% of this government funding is being spent specifically on care services and within care settings, so an increase in private providers coming to county authorities for help, alongside the other new responsibilities outlined today, are likely to result in significant extra costs. These costs will need to be met by the government, bearing in mind councils are already under extreme financial pressure this year owing to lost income and thwarted savings plans.”