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What we are doing to support our social care workforce through the COVID-19 pandemic.

First published:
29 April 2020
Last updated:

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The social care sector in Wales is making a huge contribution to the response to the coronavirus pandemic and we appreciate the hard work and effort from everyone involved. But this is a sector under pressure. 
 
We are doing everything we can to support the sector, the tens of thousands of people working in social care and the many, many more receiving support. 

Funding for social care

We provided an initial additional £40m on 14 April to help the adult social care sector meet the additional costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic. This is being provided via the local government hardship fund.

Owners of care home services and of care home services with nursing, have been able to apply for financial support through the Welsh Government’s £500m Economic Resilience Fund, which was designed to complement other sources of business support set up by the UK and Welsh governments.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)  

All social care settings have received regular deliveries of free PPE from the Welsh central and pandemic stores to supplement their regular supplies of PPE. This will help ensure staff have the essential equipment they need to do their job and can feel confident doing their job. 
 
As of 24 April, almost 12m items of PPE have been distributed to all local authority joint stores for onward distribution to social care settings in Wales. 
 
The use of PPE in social care is supported by UK-wide guidance, which was issued on 2 April.

Testing  

Testing is available for all social care staff who have symptoms and, as of 22 April, all care home residents who have coronavirus symptoms will be tested. Testing is being extended to all people entering care homes, including from hospital, those returning from step-down care, moving between care homes or being admitted from the community. 
 
Critical worker testing policy

Guidance and support for commissioners

Working with the Association of Directors of Social Services, guidance has been published to support providers and commissioners.

The online care and support capacity tool, which supports commissioners, has been introduced early – since it launched on 26 March, more than 40% of adult residential care providers have signed-up. It will help commissioners identify the availability of care home places and help place people who need a care home bed as soon as possible. 
 
The Coronavirus Act 2020 Act provides the four UK governments with additional emergency powers to respond to the pandemic. Under the Act we are publishing guidance to provide a consistent and coherent framework, which enables local authorities to maintain support to those in greatest need. It reinforces our overarching principles and core values and, alongside the Ethical Framework for Adult Social Care, will ensure everyone in Wales with care and support needs is treated fairly and equally.  

Regulation and inspection

We have agreed with Care Inspectorate Wales and Social Care Wales a pragmatic approach to enforcement of the requirements around the workforce, including in relation to domiciliary care workers and other registered social care workers. We will introduce legislative changes if these are needed.  
 
Care Inspectorate Wales has introduced a weekly call to providers, to offer support and identify any issues they may be facing. More information about CIW’s work.  

Residential and nursing care

We published detailed guidance about closing care homes to visitors, except in exceptional circumstances, on 23 March.
 
We have developed a new testing and discharge pathway for people leaving hospital into care homes during the coronavirus pandemic – all those with a positive coronavirus test result or who have symptoms will be discharged to appropriate stepdown care. They will have a further test before they are discharged from step-down care to confirm they do not have coronavirus before returning to their care homes. 
 
To support nursing provision in residential care, we are working to place nurse returners in social care settings, including linking the NHS COVID hub to the Social Care Wales online recruitment portal. A specific area is being created for nursing vacancies.  
 
To ensure care homes are able to continue to access food supplies, we have been working with supermarkets to make sure care homes are recognised as a priority. We have also linked care homes with Menter a Busnes, to connect them to wholesale suppliers, which can deliver required supplies. Menter a Busnes has an information line for questions on food supply for businesses, which is staffed seven days a week.   
 
Dedicated advice about working in care homes has been provided by Public Health Wales. 

Domiciliary support services  

Advice for domiciliary support services about coronavirus.
 
Health Education and Improvement Wales has introduced an online medication training for care workers course, which will ensure more care workers can administer medication to people in their homes.

Children’s social care

Comprehensive operational guidance for children’s social services was issued on 21 April. It was developed in consultation with the sector. A set of FAQs for vulnerable children is also available. 

Working with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, we have developed information for care leavers.

A youth information service, using the existing MEIC youth advocacy service, is being developed.
 
Adoption services are being given some flexibility in interpreting the requirements in the new adoption regulations between 1 April and 30 September or until normal running is resumed, whichever is the sooner, to enable them to continue progressing adoptions as far as is possible in the current emergency conditions. 
 
To support families, which are finding the current situation especially difficult, the Welsh Government is making all pre-school childcare free for children under five who have social workers, as well as, the children of critical workers under five. Family information services can advise about the childcare options available in each local authority area.  

Social care workforce

This year we introduced a mandatory requirement for domiciliary care workers to register with Social Care Wales. The timescale for new domiciliary care workers to register has temporarily been extended from six to 12 months.
 
Social Care Wales has opened an emergency register for social workers, enabling those who left the profession to re-register to provide support, without a fee. More than 50 social workers have been placed on the emergency register so far.
 
Social Care Wales’ recruitment hub is highlighting more than 450 vacancies across social care and has links with the Department for Work and Pensions to showcase vacancies in the sector. 
 
Social Care Wales has developed an identity card for all social care workers.
 
Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services and Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services wrote to all social care workers in Wales to thank them on 6 April.
 
Social Care Wales has published a range of resources to support social care workers’ wellbeing.  
 
Free childcare is available for the children (under five) of critical workers, including social care staff.

Vulnerable people

More than 90,000 people with specific health conditions have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales asking them to adopt a series of shielding measures to protect them from being exposed to coronavirus. This group is extremely vulnerable to serious ill health. We have shared some information about this group with the supermarkets to ensure they can have priority home deliveries and, for those, who do not have any local support, free weekly food deliveries are available via from their local authority.
 
Personal assistants will be included in the Social Care Wales identity card scheme.

Bereavement support 

We have supplemented funding, which is already available as part of the three-year Sustainable Social Services Grant to Cruse Bereavement Care. An additional £72,000 has been provided to enable them to expand the support they offer in Wales.

Safeguarding

The Welsh Government has set up a dedicated safeguarding and COVID-19 webpage to host the latest information.  

To support regional safeguarding boards, we have issued advice to safeguarding boards on their role and function during the outbreak. We want to stress the importance of remaining vigilant to instances where an adult or child may be experiencing abuse, harm or neglect. Information for practitioners on reporting a safeguarding concern has been cascaded through sector networks.  
 

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