Care homes are feeling a ‘slap in the face' from the government’s decision to provide an insurance indemnity for music festivals, while care homes fear closure as they struggle to get insurance protection against Covid-19 claims.
Credit: Live events and music festivals get the indemnity government denies care homes. Credit: Melinda Nagy/ Shutterstock
Public liability insurance is a legal requirement for care home registration but care providers have seen the cost treble in some cases and it does not cover them for Covid claims which could force them to shut down.
The UK government recently announced a £750m scheme to protect music festivals and live events if they have to cancel because of Covid.
However, care homes' calls for the government to offer them an insurance indemnity, similar to the one given to the NHS, have been ignored.
’Slap in the face’ for care homes
Mary Wimbury, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, which represents care homes, said those in the sector were very "let down" because care they offer to people is treated as less important than the music and live events industry.
"If a care home was to be sued, they might not be covered at all and potentially would have to close.
“The care sector has kept caring for really vulnerable people and it's had to do that under really difficult conditions and it does feel like a slap in the face that the UK government has given an indemnity to the music industry but not to the care sector."
Care home owners have said they are struggling to find insurance against Covid-19 claims, which could lead to closures.
They want the Welsh government to provide an indemnity similar to the one which protects the NHS.
And they have also called the UK government's backing of insurance indemnity for live events a "slap in the face" for the care sector.
The Welsh government said it is a UK-wide issue.
It added it was working with other governments to find a solution.
Diary reveals lockdown isolation at care home
Care home owner trying to keep 'head above water'
Public liability insurance is a legal requirement for care home registration but owners have reported the cost has doubled or trebled in some cases.
But the insurance does not protect from claims relating to Covid-19, leaving homes vulnerable to potentially high pay-outs.
The risk, along with other challenges the sector has faced during the pandemic, could lead to more homes closing.
Mary Wimbury, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, said those in the sector were "very let down" because they feel the care they have provided for vulnerable people was treated as less important than the music and live events industry.
Last month, the UK government announced a £750m scheme which protects music festivals and live events if they have to cancel because of Covid-19.
Ms Wimbury called on the Welsh government to introduce an indemnity scheme similar to that and the one which protects the NHS from claims.
"If a care home was to be sued, they might not be covered at all and potentially would have to close," she said.
"The care sector has kept caring for really vulnerable people and it's had to do that under really difficult conditions and it does feel like a slap in the face that the UK government has given an indemnity to the music industry but not to the care sector."
Owners also said it makes them more risk averse when it comes to visitors.
Bethan Mascarenhas, manager of The Old Vicarage in Llangollen, Denbighshire, said while they had not had any cases of Covid, it was still one of the biggest risks and legal action could lead to the home closing.
"This isn't us over-worrying - these are things that could potentially happen," she said.
She said there was an injustice, adding older people were often "forgotten and pushed to the bottom of the priority list".
"Everybody else is able to get back to partying and having a great time but we're asking for insurance cover so they can see their loved ones and be connected again. There's a huge disparity," she said.
Justin Otto-Jones, who helps run Parkside House in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, called the situation "plainly unsatisfactory".
She added: "It's frustrating as we have been raising this for more than a year with Welsh government.
"It is a major worry and adds to the perfect storm that care homes have been facing which includes staffing issues and fatigue."
Resident at the Old Vicarage Audrey Dunbebin said: "To be able to feel in contact with your friends and family is very nice, it makes you feel very at home.
"It is very important, it connects you with your old life."
Fellow resident Bill Bosson added: "It's important to keep the connection all the time because if you don't I think you'd go into a recluse in as much as I'd fall out of everything, whereas they [friends and family] keep me going."
The Welsh government said more than £185m had been given to the adult social care sector with more coming until the end of the financial year.
A spokesman added: "Our policy on care home visiting has evolved throughout the pandemic, informed by public health advice."
The Association of British Insurers recognised the market for care homes was challenging and said insurers were working with care homes on managing risks to increase the chances of getting cover.
A spokesman said: "Premise managers and local authorities should speak to their insurance adviser or broker to explore their options."
With care homes struggling to find enough staff to fill care vacancies across the country, the government has been urged to change immigration restrictions on low paid foreign workers to address the staffing crisis in the care sector.
Care England, which represents care homes, is demanding the government include all care workers to the shortage occupation list used to grant visas and reduce the qualifying salary level from £25,600, which is currently required for the recruitment of overseas care workers.
The list, as it stands, includes care managers and senior care staff but not lower paid workers in care homes.
Prior to the pandemic starting in 2020, there were 112,000 care vacancies in England with jobs paying £8.50 an hour on average, according to Skills for Care. The care retention and recruitment crisis is about to get worse as over 70,000 workers will be forced to leave their care jobs, when Covid vaccination becomes mandatory for employment in care homes this November.
'Care sector will crumple' without immediate help
“Quite simply care providers are at breaking point”, said Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England in a statement released on behalf of care home providers.
“The writing is on the wall and without immediate help, as given to the NHS, the social care sector will crumple and not be there to support the NHS over the winter let alone in years to come”.
Martin Green wrote to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid in August to make clear the workforce issues threatening the care sector and what practical steps the minister must take to tackle the care recruitment crisis.
Care England has recommended the government expand the care workforce by recruiting from abroad. It is demanding the government waives the Immigration Skills Charge for care workers.
The care home leader wants to see a ‘fast-track system’ to grant visas under sponsorship licenses for people working in social care.
The care body has also recommended bonuses and increases in pay for staff, direct support to help people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of working on the frontline during the pandemic and the continuation of COVID funds for the care sector.
Care England has said it has encouraged care homes to share their practical solutions with each other to help tackle recruitment and retention issues in ‘a last-ditch attempt to save the sector’ but it says government action recommended by the care body is urgently needed.
Martin Green added: “We have done an enormous amount of work on what could and should be done to help the adult social care workforce and hope that we can look to the Government for support”.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes in England and Wales fell in the first week of September, according to the ONS.
In its latest weekly update, the ONS reported 61 COVID-related deaths in care homes in England and Wales down from a five-month high of 72 in the week earlier.
COVID-19 accounted for 3.5% of all deaths in care homes in the week, down marginally from 3.6% in the previous week.
CQC notifications of deaths involving COVID-19 in England fell to 50 in the week ending 3 September from 62 in the previous week.
However, the latest CQC data showed a rise again in the week ending 10 September to 69 deaths, the highest recorded weekly figure since the end of March.
More positively, COVID cases in England stood at just over 20,000 on 13 September, below the seven-day average of 24,486.
An additional 32 COVID deaths were recorded in England on 13 September, down on a seven-day average of 116.
The Care Workers’ Charity (CWC) has announced it is partnering with RCH Care Homes.
The CWC said RCH had chosen to join them as a partner to work towards ensuring every care worker in the UK can access support.
Karolina Gerlich, CEO of the CWC, (pictured) said: “We are thrilled to be working with RCH Care Homes to raise awareness of the work and impact of The CWC amongst the social care sector and its workforce.
“This partnership represents a collective commitment to building a stronger, more resilient sector; a sector that values and supports its employees so that they can deliver the highest levels of care. Myself, and the team, look forward to working with them.”
RCH Care Homes said: “RCH are proud to partner with The CWC who have been instrumental in supporting so many carers in the care sector. By partnering with The CWC, we aim to be an additional resource of support for our own team members in addition to our own internal initiatives.
“RCH Care Homes shares the same values as The CWC and we are looking forward to sharing the journey ahead to positively impact the lives of those working in the care sector.”
Askham Village Community, near Doddington, are taking steps to "recognise and reward" all frontline care workers by increasing their wages to the national living wage and help shake off negative perceptions of working in the care industry, which is often portrayed as underpaid.
The changes to staff remuneration have been timed to coincide with Professional Care Workers’ Week (6th to 10th September).
The new package is available to all frontline care workers who have passed their probation. The package also includes staff perks that offer discounts at major retailers.
Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, director at Askham Village Community Ltd, said that social care is becoming renowned as an industry that “fails to reward” staff for their hard work.
She said: “Our commitment to providing at least the living wage for our frontline care workers though is testament to the value we place on our workforce and their incredible efforts. A fair wage for fair work should be a fundamental part of employment and this is something we’ll look to do going forward.
“We work closely with our care team and witness them provide quality care every day. Following the pandemic, we wanted to reward them for their courage, selflessness and determination in ensuring Askham continues to deliver the very best in person-centred care.
“Of course, we wish we could go further in our measures, but we have to be conscious we can only operate within the economics of the industry to ensure we remain sustainable. Hopefully, following the reforms, there will be increased opportunity to give all those working in social care even greater recognition and rewards.”
'We are taking steps to recognise and reward our frontline care workers, not wait for the government to do so.'
A significant step to reward its care workers for their efforts throughout the pandemic, the wage commitment will be funded directly by the organisation costing more than £150,000 annually.
Askham Village Community has partnered with Staff Treats where care workers can claim discounts at UK supermarkets such as Tesco, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons, as well as branded clothing and household names such as Apple, Zara, Nike and ASOS totalling more than 3,000 discounts across retail, travel, hospitality, and home furnishings.
Ms Begum Nasser added: “Our carers do a wonderful job, and we’re hoping this will go some way towards showing our appreciation for the incredible care they provide for our residents. The inclusion of the perks package alongside our living wage commitment will also offer further financial assistance to our staff, thanks to reduced bills on groceries and other essentials.”
Luke Cook, head of rehab and nursing at Askham, said the newly announced local and central government reform of social care is "welcome" but "long overdue."
Ms Cook added: “Appropriately, trained, supported, and motivated staff must be acknowledged and valued. We are taking steps to recognise and reward our frontline care workers – not simply wait for the government to do so.”