A new £600 million Infection Control Fund has been introduced to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in care homes.  The government has announced that the fund, which is ring-fenced for adult social care, will be given to local authorities to ensure care homes can stop the spread of coronavirus by helping them cover the costs of implementing measures to reduce transmission within care homes.  This is particularly important for minimising the movement of staff to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus by staff who are not necessarily displaying symptoms.

Local authorities will be able to support care homes who do not have a current contract with them.  Care homes will be asked to restrict permanent and agency staff to working in only one care home. The funding could be used to meet the additional costs of restricting staff to work in one care home and pay the wages of those self-isolating.  In addition, a smaller amount of the fund could be used by care homes to support domiciliary care providers.

Information for providers and the Grant Conditions

The letter from Helen Whately, Minister for Care, to local authorities along with the Grant Circular sets out that the funding will be provided in two tranches, £300m should have already been received by local authorities.  The second tranche of £300m will be paid in July on the condition that the local authorities have “returned a care home support plan by 29 May 2020”. 

75% of each tranche will be paid to providers on a “per bed” basis.   Care homes should expect to receive their first payment 10 working days after the local authorities have received the funding.

Some of the Grant Conditions set out in the Grant Circular are as follows:

  • Providers must have reported timely information about their needs through the Capacity Tracker at least once and be committed to completing the Capacity Tracker on a consistent basis.
  • The payment for the 75% must not be used for PPE or deep cleans, but must only be used to fund a limited range of infection control measures such as:
    • Ensuring that staff who are insolating receive their normal wages;
    • Limiting staff to individual groups of residents or floors or wings, including segregation of COVID-19 positive residents;
    • Supporting active recruitment of additional staff if needed to ensure that staff only work in one care home or to work only with an assigned group of residents;
    • Steps to limit the use of public transport by members of staff. Encouragement of walking and cycling to and from work could be supported with the provision of changing facilities and the use of local taxi firms, for example;
    • Providing accommodation for staff who choose to stay separate from their own family to limit social interaction outside of work. This could be in collaboration with local hotels, for example;
  • The other 25% of the fund could be used for other COVID-19 infection control measures payments including domiciliary care and wider workforce measures.

Providers must ensure that they keep a detailed record of all payments which are paid out “per bed” allocation.  If a provider has not used the whole of the fund for the permitted purposes, the money must be returned to the local authority.

What happens if the Grant funds are not used in the right way by providers?

If the local authority believes that a provider has not used the money for the purposes as set out above, the local authority must withhold the second payment of the grant until it can be satisfied that the provider has used it in the correct way.

Where the local authority cannot satisfy themselves that the provider has used the money for the appropriate infection control measures, the local authority must take all reasonable steps to recover the money that has not been used in the correct way, i.e. a clawback.

Concerns for providers

 The president of ADASS, James Bullion, has written to the Minister for Care, Helen Whatley, expressing “deep concern at the confusion that has been created by the development and roll-out of the Infection Control Fund”. Mr Bullion’s main concerns, on behalf of care providers, are as follows:

  • One of the Grant Conditions is to not use any of the funds on PPE. This has been one of the biggest and considerable additional costs associated with COVID-19;
  • The requirement to maintain a detailed accounting record of payments which are paid out of the “per bed” allocation is burdensome for providers in an already pressurised environment;
  • The additional funding is actually insufficient to cover the real costs faced by providers;
  • The conditions attached are restrictive and therefore reporting those justifications to local authorities will be onerous;
  • The 25% to be given to domiciliary care may be insufficient to support their needs as providers of home care;
  • It is unrealistic to expect local authorities to make the first payment within 10 days of receipt of the funds from the government. This is particularly relevant where the provider does not have an existing contract with the local authority.

It is clear that there are significant concerns for both providers and local authorities in respect of the rolling out of this Infection Control Fund.  It remains to be seen what action the Minister for Care will take, if any, to respond to the concerns raised by the ADASS on behalf of local authorities and care providers.  It is evident that the enormous barriers to the fund and the legal complexities for local authorities could actually prevent the fund being used for the very purpose it was created.

If you require assistance in relation to any of the above then please contact Laura Guntrip on 01202 786187 at the earliest opportunity to discuss how we can support you.