Staff supported care homes during Covid-19 without extra pay, says report

During the pandemic, many staff members of care facilities worked extra hours without extra pay to support the system, according to a study. According to research conducted by the Warwick Business School, public funding helped stabilize care homes in the United Kingdom during the first phase of Covid-19, but it was withdrawn too quickly and not focused on staff. 

While many households struggled financially during Covid-19, this study found that some larger corporations were able to increase shareholder payouts. Ministers are discussing reforms to social assistance for adults across the United Kingdom. The researchers analyzed the financial statements of more than 4,000 care home businesses in the United Kingdom from just before the pandemic and the first year of the health crisis.

As the pandemic took root, nearly two-thirds (60%) of care facilities were already financially vulnerable. The report, co-authored by University College London and the Centre for Health and the Public Interest, accuses the government of failing to plan for “highly predictable” financial harm to the sector during a pandemic. 

During the height of the pandemic, the government pumped an additional £2.1bn into the sector, which helped many care facilities avoid financial collapse but not all of it reached the front lines and the majority of payments ended in 2022, according to authors. The effects on personnel varied. Some zero-hours employees lost their employment as bed-occupancy declined. While other employees worked more hours but lost income due to reduced benefits.

Typically, hourly pay within the industry did not increase. The study found that 122 larger for-profit senior care providers were able to increase dividends to shareholders by 11% in the first year of the pandemic. The majority of care home operators are modest businesses, such as the one that operates St. Brelade’s in Herne Bay, kent. As the pandemic spread, the staff here sacrificed their personal lives to protect the residents.

Nicola Helman mentioned that she lived there for three weeks and then she was present every day for the next four weeks. Nicola went to considerable lengths, while off-duty, to avoid picking up Covid, emphasizing that she “didn’t communicate with anyone, didn’t pass anyone, etc.”

Larry Berkowitz, the owner of St Brelade, labored diligently to support the staff and residents. During the first year of the pandemic, the government subsidy helped alleviate financial pressures but once it was withdrawn, things became much more difficult. 

“The inflation really took off. Everything had become much more expensive, so there were now fewer revenues, fewer subsidies and increased expenditures.” He adds that at least three local nursing homes have closed since the year 2020. The report concludes that the government’s decision to terminate financial support for care home companies after the pandemic’s peak likely contributed to the sector’s current financial and operational difficulties. It is stated that the dire financial situation of many employees and the enormous strain they were under “means it is not surprising that the care home sector has struggled to recruit and retain staff after lockdown restrictions were lifted and the wider economy reopened.”

The Department of health and social care responded that it is investing up to £7.5 billion in social care in England over the next two years and its latest social care plans were released last week.