[Mr M Mullaney CC and Mrs A Wright CC left the meeting at this point and did not return to the meeting.]
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Adults and Communities which provided an update of the current position in care homes across Leicestershire and the support being offered to them by the County Council to provide safe and effective care, in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’, is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion the following points arose:
(i) Members noted the uncertainty of future Government funding for infection control and rapid testing which had been provided in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but due to come to an end on 31 March 2021. Members further noted that the free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) scheme launched by the Government last year was only due to run until June 2021. It was not yet known whether such Government support would be extended.
(ii) A member raised concern about the impact this would have on care homes emphasising that the Covid-19 pandemic was ongoing, and without sufficient funding they would be under additional pressure to manage infection control and to source PPE out of existing shrinking budgets. It was questioned what level of financial support the Council could realistically provide to care homes in this regard if no further funding from the Government was made available. The Director advised that it was difficult to be certain at this stage until the Government had confirmed its plans, but it was expected that a flexible approach would be needed, and the Council would have to consider requests for support on a case by case basis.
(iii) It was acknowledged that the additional pressures and costs care homes were experiencing as a result of the pandemic were likely to continue for some time, and if the additional Government income stopped and vacancy levels continued to rise, the risks to resident and staff welfare and overall sustainability of the sector would increase. Assurance was provided that the Department would continue to work closely with service providers to monitor the situation and provide support wherever possible, keep in regular contact with other authorities, both regionally and nationally, and feed into national research which was being undertaken to evidence the pressures and costs care homes were facing. Members noted that one of the key areas that would be considered over the coming months as part of the research was regarding insurance premiums.
(iv) A member questioned the potential impact locally if a large group of care homes collapsed due to lack of financial viability. The Director provided assurance that larger organisations would likely be able to offset some of the risks by making use of their other care homes within their group. However, smaller organisations might have less options available. The Director highlighted that whilst the sector overall was comprised mainly of large national organisations, the local composition was mixed which was thought provided a level of resilience. Members were pleased to note that, as well as keeping in regular contact with service providers, the Council also received wider intelligence from a number of other organisations including other local authorities, the Care Quality Commission and the emergency services who were often able to provide a good indication of the risks present, particularly regarding national organisations.
(v) It had recently been reported in the national news that the UK’s largest care provider, HC One, was planning to close four of its care homes and put 52 up for sale. Members were advised that HC One owned a small number of homes in Leicestershire, but fortunately the Council had received confirmation that these homes would be unaffected by the plans and were to remain open. However, the Council was continuing to liaise with HC One to ascertain whether people from Leicestershire that had been placed in HC One care homes out of County would be affected by the closures.
(vi) A member confirmed their support for the Unison Ethical and/or Residential Charter Marks and the approach being undertaken by the Council to consider the options for and implications of signing up to this.
(vii) The Committee expressed its thanks to the staff in the Adults and Communities Department for their ongoing commitment and efforts to support care homes and commended officers on the comprehensive report. The Chairman also highlighted the importance of members continuing to offer their support and involvement in the work being undertaken to support care homes going forward.
That the update on care homes sustainability be noted.