Care homes on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 have been left stunned by a funding cut to their services in Sheffield.
An email to care homes, sent during the peak of the crisis, set out what the local authorities called a funding increase of 4.9%.
However, when taking into account the 6.2% minimum wage increase and inflationary costs, care homes calculate that this actually represents a real-terms cut. 
It has also emerged that Sheffield City Council is not passing on the recommended 15% uplift in finances to care homes following emergency government funding to help meet the costs of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, in an email to care homes, the Council has provided a vague assurance that “additional costs” will be met. 
It comes after a leading care provider in Sheffield has called on Sheffield City Council to step up to the plate and help the fight against COVID-19 as the city fights one of the highest levels of cases in the country .
Nicola Richards, from Palms Row Health Care, wrote to Council leaders on Tuesday 7 April 2020 to explain the problems they are facing. She commented:
“We are in the midst of a public health emergency and it is unbelievable that the Council have actually cut what they pay us to deliver a vital service. Why have we not had any additional funding yet to deal with this pandemic?”
“The care sector was woefully underfunded in Sheffield before COVID-19 hit. This has put further pressure on a sector in crisis.”
In stark contrast, Shropshire has given care homes a 10% increase in funding. In Barnsley the Council are offering cash grants during the crisis to care homes and in Hampshire a raft of measures to support the care sector have been announced. 
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England said:
“Care Homes are on the front line of a national health emergency and local authorities have been given extra money by the government to support them. Local authorities should be working with care providers and they should be delivering the money that has been given to them directly to the front line.”
The plan Nicola Richards sent to councillors has been updated in light of the new announcement. Care homes in Sheffield urgently need:
- A revision of funding allocations to include the minimum wage uplift and to level up our area with others nearby .
- Urgent financial payment from the Council to support emergency costs and passing on Care England’s recommended 15% uplift in fees to cover COVID-19 related costs.
- Ability to offer pay incentives and support to permanent staff throughout this period.
- Ability to cover staff reductions with agency usage.
- Assistance with recruitment of staff and volunteers.
- Co-ordination of distribution of PPE to care homes and swab testing kits.
- Guidance on reduced bureaucracy and administration to allow frontline staff to deliver hands on care.
- Assistance with communications and IT during lockdown of homes and staff shortages
“Care homes across the country are fighting for residents’ lives like never before. Words cannot describe how difficult the conditions are on the front line, many homes operate as an extension of the hospital system without adequate support.
“We urgently need improved PPE supplies, access to swab testing kits, faster access to more staff and volunteers, simplification of communication from government bodies as well as financial and moral support from local authorities and politicians.”
Sector expert, Tanzeel Younas, Director at Every Sensation Care, added:
“The rates that are being paid to care homes in Sheffield for the level of service that is being provided are unsustainable and could risk leading to closures in the long-term. The vital work of care homes in Sheffield is being adversely impacted by the chronic underfunding that providers have had year on year.”
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 Sheffield City Council (SCC) is already one of the lowest paying authorities for social care beds (see note ). The “cut” is the difference between the 6.2% needed to cover the national minimum / living wage increase and the 4.9% offered by the SCC / CCG. Inflation, other cost increases and wage rises are not included in this comparison, so this is not the full extent of the cut being faced by care homes. In previous years SCC established a 70:30 ratio to calculate the cost of the increase to care homes, using the increases in national minimum wage and consumer prices index (2.8%) to cover inflationary costs. In 2019, the SCC Cabinet agreed a NMW / NLW + CPI measure continues, but does not have appeared to publish ratios. If SCC followed this rule the increase should be 5.2% rather than the 4.9% promised.
 Local authorities were awarded GBP1.6bn on 19 March 2020 to support COVID-19 services such as care homes. The Local Government Association and ADSS recommended councils uplift rates by 10% to meet the COVID-19 challenge. Care England recommend this should be 15%. Sheffield City Council emailed care homes on 26 March 2020 with their statement of support for “additional costs” only: “We are working hard to ensure we are responding to your queries and concerns alongside ensuring that people who need care receive it during this increasingly challenging time. We can confirm that we will pay you for the next 3 months based on this month’s currently authorised payments. We will continue to review whether this is the best way to support you. Please be reassured that we value your skills and expertise and the support that you and your staff provide to vulnerable people in the city. Please keep records of any additional costs incurred over the forthcoming weeks so that we can work with you to reconcile these. As per Government guidance (Procurement Policy Notice) yesterday, we will work with providers on an open book basis to ensure that you are able to continue supporting the health and social care response.” Care England report other councils may not be passing on the full amount as well.
 PHE Data, correct at 11/04/2020 1100 https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/f94c3c90da5b4e9f9a0b19484dd4bb14
 Barnsley support: https://www.barnsley.gov.uk/services/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-coronavirus-advice-and-guidance/financial-support-to-independent-sector-care-providers-due-to-covid-19-coronavirus/
Hampshire announcement: https://www.dropbox.com/s/r7hjbyc9bzqvdpy/HampshireCOVID%2019%20-%20res%20nursing%20Payments%20and%20Provision%20Letter%20March%2030%202020%20.pdf.pdf.pdf?dl=0
 According to the Sheffield Care Association, Derbyshire pay GBP130 a week more. Shropshire have announced a 10% funding increase.
Image by Mark Walker, licensed under Creative Commons via Flickr.