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Carers UK responds to Government’s Winter Plan

18 September 2020

The Government has published an adult social care winter plan, which aims to curb the spread of coronavirus infections in care settings throughout the winter months.

The key measures include:

  • The continuation of the Infection Control Fund, with additional funding of £546 million for the winter months
  • Free personal protective equipment (PPE) for people receiving adult social care and care workers
  • A Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care to be appointed to provide leadership to the social care nursing workforce
  • Care providers to stop all but essential movement of staff between care homes to prevent the spread of infection
  • A new dashboard that will monitor care home infections and help local government and providers respond quicker

For carers, the Government has recommended that local authorities:

  • Make sure carers know what support is available to them and who to contact if they need help
  • Ensure that assessments are updated to reflect any additional needs created by COVID-19 of both carers and those in need of social care
  • Work with services that may have closed, over the pandemic, to consider how they can reopen safely or be reconfigured to work in a COVID-19 secure way and consider using the Infection Control Fund to put in place infection prevention and control measures to support the resumption of services
  • Where people who use social care services can no longer access the day care or respite services that they used before the pandemic, work with them to identify alternative arrangements that meet their identified needs

Alongside this it has also published the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Support Taskforce report. Our Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Emily Holzhausen, co-chaired the Carers Advisory Group which fed into the taskforce’s recommendations.

Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said:

“We are very pleased that Government has considered the needs of unpaid carers in its Winter Plan, encouraging local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate the services carers so desperately need to take a break.

“Six months of reduced day services has meant a significant proportion of family carers have been placed under intolerable pressure, providing complex care for months on end without any time out. Reinstated services, alongside support to identify alternative arrangements to help them take a break, will help carers and the people they care for manage better over the winter.

“It is clear that the Coronavirus pandemic has adjusted the baseline of need for people requiring care; the social care system is now faced with yet higher demand for its services. Supporting unpaid carers will be a fundamental step in starting to tackle this problem: it is imperative that local authorities take this guidance forward and work with crucial day services to help reinstate them and support carers’ health over the winter months.

“Government must recognise the greater need for care beyond winter by placing social care on a more sustainable financial footing.”

On visiting care homes:

“While we understand the Government’s decision to suspend care home visits in areas where Covid-19 infections are highest for the safety of residents, it is imperative that communication between care homes and family members remains consistent so that families have the reassurances they need that their loved ones are safe and well. Where care providers deem it safe for visits to take place, it is important that they go ahead so that residents can enjoy time with their family, and carers also get the peace of mind they need.”

The Winter Plan also sets outs the Government’s plans to promote free flu jabs for those who are eligible, which includes unpaid carers. Carers UK wants to see clear, consistent public messaging targeted at carers to ensure that they know they are eligible, and wants to see GP practices being proactive in identifying unpaid carers and encouraging them to book a flu jab.

It also takes on an important Carers Advisory Group recommendation to identify young carers better, by stating that DfE and DHSC will be looking at ways to ensure that young carers are made more visible in the system.

Carers UK welcomes the Government’s decision to extend funding to the Carers UK helpline until March 2021, which will ensure we can put larger numbers of carers in touch with information and support they need during this challenging period.

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