Additional £600m fund for infection control criticised due to excessively strict rules of access

Key commentators on the adult social care sector (ADASS, LGA and Care England) have all commented on the strict nature of the rules that apply to any local authority and provider that wishes to access funds which were announced on 15 May 2020.

Councils are allowed to access the additional monies to support care homes primarily for infection control only.  The rules to provide access to the fund include a 75% access rate to care homes within a locality with those funds having to be spent on: ensuring that staff that are isolated as a result of Covid-19 are paid; and ensuring that staff work for only one location and that additional costs of recruitment are met.  Local authorities and providers who might wish to access the fund need to be able to demonstrate that they have used the fund for the specific reasons set out in the guidance and have sufficient evidence to support such use such as receipts which identify specifically what monies has been spent on.  The other 25% of the fund can be used to support non-care home services such as the care at home sector.  This failure to place the care at home sector on a more even footing would appear to underestimate the needs of that sector and supported living and their associated needs during this pandemic and the inherent risks that follow those engaged in caring for individuals outside of the traditional care home setting.  Ridouts has received reports from some clients that they have been asked by their commissioning authority to sign an agreement that states they will not use this money to purchase PPE – surely the cornerstone of infection control.

Half of the fund was to be released in May with the remainder in July but only if 75% of funds have been fully spent by providers according to the rules set out in the conditions of the grant.

These monies can be accessed by providers of care with or without existing contracts with local authorities within their area. It is understandable why the Government has chosen to distribute this additional funding in this way in order to use the local authority distribution network but if the priority was and remains to encourage uptake and increase the adherence to good infection control measures it might stand to reason that such funding should have been offered to providers directly with less administrative hurdles to overcome.  In its current format this fund may unintentionally have the consequence of reducing either the local authority or the provider’s willingness to engage with the clearly positive measures that the fund was set up to encourage.

The Government retains the right to clawback any funding which cannot be proven to have been spent exclusively in line with the conditions attached to the fund and the argument remains that those conditions may have been drafted in an overly prescriptive manner that is unhelpful to the sector.