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Care sector and COVID-19 changes for advisers

News article

Publication date:

21 July 2020

Last updated:

22 July 2020

Author(s):

Sophia Kleanthous

Advisers' relationships with their clients are changing, and as a professional body the Chartered Insurance Institute is taking the necessary steps to support the sector.

The care sector

As a result of COVID-19, we have put together this set of links, resources and recommendations for advisers to help them understand the potential impact of the pandemic on their clients, and provide guidance which will enable advisers to signpost their clients towards further help.

In these challenging times advisers will find themselves developing increasingly closer, ongoing, and more personal relationships with their clients and families. As a result, they may have to adapt to clients who develop sudden care needs or those whose parents/spouses that develop care needs and implement clear action plans as a result. This could be through an unexpected crisis such as a stroke, sudden onset of dementia, Parkinson’s or other age-related illnesses that could impair cognitive abilities. Current care provision and policy/products within the wider financial services follows a model of reactive support rather than proactive planning for potential care needs. This model is not sustainable for the current social care crisis and the needs of an ageing population. Finding care at short notice is a tough challenge at the best of times, and even more so during this crisis.

The government has responded to the current social care crisis during COVID-19 with a social care action plan. This is structured as a four-point plan which details a complete strategy on how to:

  1. Support the workforce;
  2. Control the spread in care settings;
  3. Support independence; and
  4. Support local authorities and other providers of care.

Next year the Chartered Insurance Institute will be launching a campaign on social care on how advisers can support older consumers and start the conversation on care earlier. We have therefore collated the most useful changes to policy and measures that affect the care sector to give advisers the right tools to support and engage with clients. One organisation supporting advisers, the Specialist Advice service, ‘My Care Consultant’ has created a subscription service called ‘Care Box’ which provides advisers with technical resources and advice on care.

Care England has set up a hub of information on how the care sector can be supported during this time including letters to local authorities, government and service users. It has  launched a Digital Social Care Helpline which provides digital support to social care providers that have been affected during the coronavirus pandemic. You can also view the updated guidance on ‘Admission and Care of Residents during COVID-19 Incidents in care homes’. Care England has also written to the Department of Health and Social Care for an update on contingency planning and includes recommendations such as support with equipment, testing and staffing in care settings. The Care Provider Alliance is also updating their guidance, advice and support on a weekly basis.

For further information on how carers will be impacted by these changes and how you can support them and your clients during the coronavirus outbreak, the consumer group, Which?, has created this guidance. LaingBuisson, which provides Healthcare Business Intelligence to the wider health and care sector has published a coronavirus toolkit which features a knowledge hub, guidance to support those in need and the latest global news and updates on the coronavirus.


Caring and informal carers


The NHS 111 website currently provides direct guidance for anyone who is concerned about themselves or someone they are caring for. If the individual’s condition worsens and becomes more severe carers should call 111 and state that they are carer during the call to be given the best advice and support. Carers UK has set up a wellbeing chat room for those who want to engage further with our carers. The ‘Care for a Cuppa’ online forum holds a weekly online catch up. Carers UK have also organised online learning and sharing sessions which offers a range of skills, tips, and topics for carers.

The NHS have released the latest updates for unpaid and informal carers. If an individual is caring for someone who is deemed extremely vulnerable, carers should “take extra precautionary measures by only providing essential care and ensure you follow the NHS hygiene advice for people at higher risk”[1]. The GOV.UK page offers specific advice for anyone who is caring for someone in the extremely vulnerable category and ‘different levels of clinical vulnerability’ as a result of COVID-19. Anyone that meets this criteria should follow the stay at home guidance for households that has been released by the government.

It is important to be aware of the changes for your clients who are unpaid carers. Some unpaid carers are entitled to Carer’s Allowance which is the main benefit for those who provide care for someone 35 hours a week or more. Since Monday 30th March, and as a result of COVID-19, the eligibility criteria have changed which “allows unpaid carers in England and Wales to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they  have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets coronavirus or if they have to isolate because of it”[2]. The government has also confirmed that caring for someone’s emotional needs and support counts towards the eligibility of Carer’s Allowance threshold. This means a larger number of carers will be included and get the financial support they need.

This guidance and government changes will be reviewed again by government in September 2020. A further part of the benefits system for carers is ‘Carers Credit’. This benefit is specifically for those carers whose caring responsibilities have caused gaps in their employment, leading to gaps in National Insurance contributions. As is stated on a recent article from ‘Unbiased’[3], “to be eligible for Carer’s Credit, you need to be aged 16 or over, caring for someone at least 20 hours a week, and under state pension age. The person receiving care must also be in receipt of disability benefits.”

Working Families, an NGO for working families and those with caring responsibilities, regularly updates emergency guidance for carers and create localised carers guidance in line with government policy and advice which is continuously changing. On the topic of furloughing, Working Families has written this:

“The government guidance on furlough makes clear that employees can be furloughed if they are unable to work due to caring commitments or because someone in their household is shielding. If you have returned to work from furlough: if you were on furlough on or before 10 June, and you have returned to work, you can ask your employer to put you back on furlough if you can no longer continue working because of childcare or caring commitments.”[4]

Working Families has also released a report where it surveyed working parents and those with caring responsibilities. According to their report, which surveyed 1,063 working parents and carers during lockdown, over 9 in 10 working parents who are carers want their workplaces to retain flexible working post COVID-19. It signals a significant shift in attitudes, that may carry across to people’s attitudes towards other aspects of life, such as how they want to engage with a financial adviser.

Finally, different groups have been affected in different ways by coronavirus, and we should all be aware that different communities may be more likely to have experienced the physical, mental, and economic impacts of coronavirus:

  • Research by The Health Foundation has shown that COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting minority ethnic groups, particularly people of black ethnicity and of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins. These groups are more likely to be in occupations that have a higher-than-average risk of exposure to coronavirus, and these groups are more likely to be economically vulnerable according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies[5].
  • Responsibility for providing care lies with local authorities, and different authorities have different approaches, which are often influenced by their level of resources. This means that there are significant differences across England in how care is both handled and understood by local authorities (see this CQC report). It is important to be aware of a client’s local authority status on care provision and what this means for clients who are carers.
  • Coronavirus has had an impact on most people’s mental wellbeing in some way. Research suggests that some groups have been more affect than others. Many of these groups are likely to have greater caring needs and/or responsibilities. Research by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that a higher proportion of people with long-term health conditions (62%), single parents (59%), young people age 25-34 (63%), and women (62%) reported having been anxious/worried compared to the overall adult population.
  • In many ways, COVID-19 has put a spotlight on a care provision and funding crisis which has led the head of the NHS in England to say, “we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports”[6]. Advisers can help clients to navigate through this crisis, by being aware of the help and support that is available to them.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, coronavirus has put a significant strain on a system that was already struggling and needed reform. However, as detailed above there are options and recommendations that advisers can discuss with their clients in order to help those, with caring responsibilities or working in the sector, to find solutions and support within the current system. This article has been written to give advisers a sense of what is possible and where they signpost clients to go within the current system, until there are larger systemic changes at government and local authority level.

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19

[2] https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/press-releases/carers-uk-welcomes-changes-to-carer-s-allowance-in-response-to-coronavirus

[3] https://www.unbiased.co.uk/life/care-support/financial-help-for-carers

[4] https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/coronavirus-carers/

[5] https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/about-the-review/

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53297312

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), the CII group, local institute or Society, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the CII group, local institutes, or Societies.