Care providers were at the epicentre of the Covid-19 storm in 2020. From dealing with outbreaks of infection due to ill-advised policy to sourcing enough PPE, their challenges were immense. Not least navigating the fast-changing, and often conflicting, guidance from government for both their clients and staff.
As advisors to Care England, the body representing independent care providers, we’ve been helping the sector with legal advice on a wide range of issues. Such was the pressure on members, they stepped up the forum meetings we attend from quarterly to weekly during the pandemic. Much of the work consisted of helping them define frameworks and push back on blanket guidance which was inappropriate for their vulnerable clients or their staff.
We’ve worked with Care England for several years, particularly in support of clients with learning disabilities. One of the issues we were asked to tackle early on concerned the mandatory wearing of masks in care settings. While being a crucial factor in tackling the pandemic, face masks can be counterproductive in supporting those with significant learning disabilities. Not being able to see the care worker’s face can provoke an aggressive or frightened reaction. They are also a barrier for those who lip read.
We were able to give advice explaining the risk of civil liability, inquests or enforcement action if members departed from the guidance. More importantly, working with the Care England, we were able to prepare an alternative risk-based approach – which is now incorporated in updated guidance issued by Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England.
As well as looking after their clients, care providers have a duty of care to their staff. The pandemic created many new hurdles for members to navigate. For instance, the furlough scheme initially needed clarifying for clinically vulnerable employees who were being asked to take sick leave rather than benefit from the scheme (particularly where public funding was involved). We helped members push back on this so they were able to reassure their staff they would be looked after financially.
The best care for the most vulnerable
Matthew Wort who led the ACS team working for Care England says;
In hugely difficult times, our pro bono work gave Care England members the confidence they were operating in an appropriate legal framework. We were delighted to be able to advise them in this area. Ultimately, this means vulnerable people are getting the best possible care and their staff are able to work safely.
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