COVID-19 Information for Care and Support Providers
Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated 30 November 2020
Planning, support and advice
1. Where can I find the Council's Care Home Support Plan?
The Council’s care home support plan is published below.
2. Can you tell me more about how the Council is responding to the situation in relation to coronavirus?
The Council’s website has a dedicated page of coronavirus developments.
We are responding to the situation in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), the National Health Service (NHS), Government, and other key organisations in the city. Working with our partners, we are following national guidance and assessing risk on a daily basis. This is an evolving situation, and PHE and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer are updating information regularly.
Our resilience and continuity plans are being regularly reviewed to ensure priority services are maintained to protect the most vulnerable people in the city, as the national measures to control the outbreak continue to be stepped up. As Council staff become sick and resources become stretched, staff will be reallocated to ensure that essential services continue with minimal disruption and the most vulnerable members of our society continue to receive the care they need.
We are also working with partners to consider how resources across the whole city can be maximised to ensure the continuation of essential services if required.
Government has announced that funding will be available to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. For more information, see Government guidance: Support for those affected by COVID-19.
We will continue to follow the advice of PHE; the latest information can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus and includes a range of specific advice for health professionals and other organisations. We suggest that providers continue to monitor the PHE website for updates and the most current in-formation as frequently as possible. The Government is currently coordinating a national response the outbreak of COVID-19 and has published its coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan.
3. How is the Council working with care and support providers to help them to remain operationally and financially resilient?
We are working with providers on a collaborative basis to identify issues and jointly agree actions and mutual expectations for the delivery of key care and support services across the city. As this is a challenging situation, it’s critical that we have in place good two-way communications, so we can take future decisions jointly as the situation develops to ensure the continued provision of critical care and support services.
We have therefore implemented the following communication mechanisms to share information, best practice, and to hear and respond to any questions, concerns or ideas from providers:
- regular online provider forums
- weekly provider bulletins setting out the latest information and guidance of interest to care and support providers
- regular phone calls between the Council's Commissioning and Procurement Team and care settings
- surveys at key intervals to understand the impact of the pandemic on provider organisations and what support the Council can provide
We have been working with providers and local partners to understand and build on providers’ own business continuity arrangements for the delivery of care and support across the city and we will continue to do this over the winter period in line with the Adult Social Care COVID Winter Plan. This includes working together to identify any aspects where additional assistance may be required, including areas relating to workforce availability, cash flow and additional expenses, infection control supply chain resilience.
The Council has already put in place a range of financial relief measures for care and support providers, in partnership with its NHS partners, and a summary of these measures can be found under the finance section below.
4. Who should I contact if I need advice or want to talk to someone about the services I deliver and the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Providers should follow PHE advice which can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus. This includes a range of specific advice for health professionals and other organisations. We suggest that providers continue to monitor the PHE website for updates and the most current information as frequently as possible.
Providers should contact the Council’s Commissioning and Procurement Team to discuss any proposed changes in locally delivered care and support arrangements. For example, any planned service closures or changes in overall delivery arrangement.
For any changes to a person’s individual package of social care, please see question 8.
The Council’s website has dedicated page of coronavirus developments in Newcastle.
5. How can my organisation access flu vaccinations to prevent the spread of the flu over the winter period?
It is critically important that staff working with vulnerable people receive a flu vaccination over the winter period, if they are able to, to protect themselves and the people they are working with. Public Health England have published details of this winter's flu immunisation programme for social care staff. Full details can be found on the Public Health England website here, including eligibility for the vaccine, how to get one, and vaccination safety.
Personal Protective Equipment
6. How do I access emergency supplies of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)?
The Council has published a Personal Protective Equipment webpage which sets out the process for providers to follow to secure supplies of PPE.
7. I am struggling with staffing capacity for critical services. Can I employ staff whose Enhanced DBS checks have not yet been completed?
We already have an Adult First policy in place enabling residential care providers to employ up to 3 members of staff who have passed their ‘ISA Adult First’ check, provided this is agreed with our Commissioning and Procurement Team and carefully risk managed by the provider. We have written to all care and support providers where this applies to clarify this policy, as well as relaxations we are temporarily making to reference requirements during the pandemic.
The Government’s Coronavirus Bill enables regulators to emergency register suitable people as regulated healthcare professionals, such as nurses, midwives or paramedics. This includes (but will not be limited to) recently retired professionals and students who are near the end of their training. Registered staff can then be used appropriately, with decisions made on a local basis, to increase the available health and social care workforce and enable essential health and care services to function during the height of the epidemic.
8. I am worried about the wellbeing of my workforce, are there places I can get support?
While many social care providers offer their own employee wellbeing programmes, there are also a range of support services that the social care workforce in our region can access:
- Free NHS wellbeing support helpline: 03001317000. This helpline offers health and social care workers access to bereavement care, mental health support, financial advice and coaching.
- Free NHS wellbeing support via text. Simply text 85258 to access the same offer above via text.
- Skills for Care support networks. Skills for Care offer a range of support networks, including a peer support WhatsApp group for registered managers. You can find out more at the link.
Service delivery changes
9. Can I adjust the care packages for people I support?
Where a person’s care needs have changed, providers should follow the usual process by contacting Community Health and Social Care Direct.
However, we recognise that care providers may need to rapidly adjust packages of care for the people they support in order to meet the most urgent needs and the availability of staff, where needs have not changed.
Providers should act in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of the people they serve, with the top priority being the protection of life.
We specifically recognise that providers of homecare will need to be able to make rapid decisions around appropriate adjustment to care delivered against plan; some visits may also longer due to infection control procedures, whilst some packages may need to be adjusted.
We have written to all of our homecare providers to clarify the process through which they can adjust packages in a timely and non-bureaucratic way within agreed limits.
10. Can I allow non-essential visits in my care home?
At present the Council has advised that an 'essential visits' only policy is in place for care homes across the city due to the increase in the local infection rate. Visits should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example, end of life care, and must follow strict infection control procedures.
We have put these restrictions in place to protect people in care homes who are often some of the most vulnerable people in our city. We are aware that it is really important to the ongoing wellbeing of people in care homes to receive visits from their loved ones and as soon as we are able to safely remove or reduce these restrictions we will communicate directly with care homes across the city as quickly as possible.
We are currently working with Public Health England and local partners to consider how testing can support care home visiting.
11. Will the Council adapt its usual contract monitoring arrangements in response to the coronavirus outbreak?
The Council’s Commissioning and Procurement Team are suspending current monitoring programmes in response to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It may however be necessary to access some settings if we have high levels of concern around harm, such as allegations of abuse and safeguarding concerns. In these instances, we will liaise with providers prior to any visit taking place, or to agree how this will be conducted.
Our Commissioning and Procurement Team will focus on:
- shoring-up provider contingency plans and supporting providers to lever in additional support where required
- supporting providers to implement shared delivery models where possible in response to the outbreak
- providing liaison and information sharing between Council and third-party provider delivery
- identifying new/alternative provision that may be required
- shifting towards remote working methods to maintain safety and combat the spread of infection
12. I am worried that delays in invoicing or payments will have a serious negative impact on my cash flow.
The type of payment providers receive for the care or support they deliver depends on the type of contract or funding agreement they have with the Council.
Many social care providers are required to submit financial returns or invoices for the care hours or support delivered for each person. The amount paid is variable depending on the actual care delivered, or number of individuals supported. At the start of the pandemic we made temporary arrangements with our adult social care providers to mitigate pressures that may arise from these arrangements. This includes bringing forward scheduled payments to improve cash flow, and paying on planned activity to reduce the administrative burden during the pandemic.
Providers with fixed price contracts have continued to be paid in the usual way. Many care and support providers with fixed price contracts are paid on a quarterly basis, in advance. We are conscious that some elements of service delivery have had to be adapted or changed completely, so we have been working with those providers to ensure priority services are maintained to protect the most vulnerable people in the city.
13. I am incurring extra costs as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) due to increased expenditure on staffing and supplies. Will there be any additional funding from the local authority for these costs?
We recognise that many providers’ continuity plans are dependent on being able to bring in additional staff in the event of major staff shortages, this includes use of agency staff in extreme cases. We also recognise that providers may be incurring additional expenses due to increased expenditure on infection control supplies.
At the start of the pandemic we directly contacted providers delivering critical care and support services to collect information on areas relating to cash flow and additional expenses as a result of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This information shaped our response to supporting the financial resilience of the care and support sector as set out in the table below
|Domiciliary care||Residential care||Other provision|
|Domiciliary care||Residential care||Other provision|
Support being offered
As at the end of August 2020, this package of support was estimated to total £5.1 million.
14. I have heard that the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund has been extended, when can providers expect to receive further payments?
The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund will be extended from September 2020 to March 2021. You can read about Round 2 of the Fund and grant allocations here.
15. How has the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund been spent in Newcastle?
During Round 1 of the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund, Newcastle was allocated £3.25 million for care and support providers in the city. This was allocated across tranche 1 and tranche 2 of the funding during May 2020 and July 2020.
At the end of each funding period, recipient organisations are asked to submit a return informing the Council how they used the funding. The returns are collated and reported back to the Department of Health and Social Care and we have set out a summary of the information received to date below:
|Tranche||% spent on measures to isolate residents in their own care homes||%spent on actions to restrict staff movement within care homes||% spent on paying staff full wages while isolating following a positive test||% spent on other infection control measures|
|Tranche 1 (£1.6m)||15%||25%||32%||28%|
|Tranche 2 (£1.6m)||14%||27%||14%||
|Tranche||% spent on cohorting staff to service users or service user groups||% spent on limiting staff movement between different service settings||% spent on paying staff normal wages while isolating||% spent on limiting the use of public transport||% spent on supporting active recruitment||% spent on supporting safe visiting in care homes||% spent on paying staff to attend work to be tested|
|Tranche 1 (1.6m)||20%||13%||35%||9%||4%||10%||9%|
|Tranche 2 (£1.6m)||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021||To be reported in 2021|