Social care providers ‘rejecting new care requests and closing in on admissions’

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Social care services are turning away new customers and handing back existing care packages, a survey found as they grapple with staff shortages caused by the spread of Omicron.

According to research from the National Care Forum (NCF), two-thirds of home care providers are turning down new requests for care, while a fifth are handing back care packages.

And 43% of care home providers are closed to new admissions, the research found.

The NCF said those on the frontline are describing the situation as “serious, difficult and relentless”.

The organisation, which represents non-profit care providers across the UK, surveyed 159 of its members between 5 and 10 January.

Some 110 members responded, supporting more than 130,000 people, providing approximately 5,250 services and employing approximately 98,000 employees.

Shifts change the situation, far from a matter of days. This is firefighting every day and prioritizing the delivery of care over other responsibilities.

Members reported an average vacancy rate of 18%, and said that 14% of employees were unable to work due to Omicron on average.

The shortages mean some frontline workers are taking up extra shifts, while non-care workers are being redeployed from other areas, and providers are increasingly relying on agency staff with high hourly rates.

Social care staff vacancy rates have been rising for months and are compounded by the mandatory vaccination requirement for care home staff, which went into effect in mid-November.

The NCF said the “extensive delay” in getting the PCR test results is also adding to the pressure.

And it criticized the “continuous drip feed approach” to government funding, saying bureaucracy means installments fail to reach providers on time.

The government in January announced an additional £60 million for local authorities to support the adult social care response to the coronavirus.

This is on top of existing funding to prevent infections and provide testing, a recruitment drive, and a £162.5 million fund to help providers recruit and retain staff over the coming months.

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