Thousands of isolated and vulnerable people living at home face “falling through gaps” in the next two months unless the government takes steps to protect them, the body representing their guardians has warned.
The Homecare Association of Great Britain said the financial pressure caused by the coronavirus crisis, including rising prices for personal protective equipment, could force a large number of 8,000 home care providers in the UK to close within weeks.
Some home care providers – widely recognized as the most fragile part of the social care system – have warned that vulnerable adults can face being left to die alone at home.
“Lessons learned late in the home care system have not been implemented in home care systems, which experience many similar problems and care for more people,” said Colin Angel, policy director for the professional association of home care providers. from the legal, independent, voluntary, non-profit and.
“Home care is a forgotten cousin of the second-class social care sector, both in terms of a lack of attention and understanding from the government,” he said.
About 97% of home care in the UK is provided by independent providers. This provider makes more than 1 million visits a day to vulnerable people in their homes. But there is no centralized record of numbers that rely on their support and very limited supervision of their financial stability.
Raina Summerson, chief executive of Agincare, one of the largest care groups in the UK, said: “All care providers at home will do anything to maintain care. But we are already working on very tight margins and, with a lack of funds and very high PPE fees, there will be bankrupt providers.
“Overnight, local authorities would have the responsibility to take care of providers that went bankrupt but would not have the resources to do so. That can mean people leave unattended and in the worst case scenario, fall through a gap and die alone at home. “
Self-isolation and staff sickness means that home care providers must also depend on expensive agency staff during a crisis. At the same time, many clients cancel their contracts for fear of being infected.
Gill Heppell, founder of Nottingham-based home care provider, PerCurra, said PPE costs were too high while supplies were short.
“The mask now costs £ 11.95 – and you have to buy 1,000. I will not need 1,000, and I hope I will not need it at all, “he said. “We usually buy two five-liter hand sanitizer tanks for £ 30. One bathtub now costs £ 100. Gloves usually cost £ 1.90 for 100. Now it costs £ 20.
“Most of these are disposable items. One care worker can get through dozens of pairs of gloves a day. Home care providers will not survive in this environment. I am really concerned about what will happen if the government does not get this right. “
Angel said the lack of supervision increases the risk that if small or medium home care providers are forced to close, the people they manage will not be picked up by local authorities in due course.
“Home care providers suffer from a number of problems, the most important being financial problems,” he said. “Most of the councils in the UK have not paid £ 1.6 billion provided by the government for them. At the same time, we have reports from several providers that they will not be able to pay their staff on the next payroll.
“There will be a number of home care providers who will go to the wall within the next month or two because of an exponential increase in costs and an increase in the number of visits canceled by the council and by people who fund their own care. That’s the fear we hear now in this sector. “
He added: “If there are a number of provider closures in the same area, local authorities may fail to identify everyone who needs it quickly enough to get in on time. Vulnerable people will fall through the gaps and not get the care they need. “
Ian Hudspeth, chair of the community welfare council of the Regional Government Association, said: “There are many and more calls on £ 1.6bn in funds and additional resources will be needed to enable the council to continue to support social care and other services.”