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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-health-and-wellbeing-of-the-adult-social-care-workforce/health-and-wellbeing-of-the-adult-social-care-workforce
Applies to: England
A new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.
Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 17 May. However, many restrictions remain in place. Find out what you can and cannot do.
COVID Secure rules, including social distancing requirements, continue to apply in the workplace, and in businesses and public venues.
The government recognises the dedication and commitment shown by all our care workers and organisations to keep people with care and support needs safe during these unprecedented times. Care workers, caterers, cleaners, nurses, occupational therapists, personal assistants, registered managers, social workers, and others, all have a crucial role in ensuring that people’s needs are met during this challenging time.
While much of the country continues to work from home, this has not been an option for those providing care and support, who are a vital lifeline to people most in need.
Social care staff will be concerned about several things, including the following:
For some, entirely understandably, the desire to continue to provide high-quality services will result in worry or anxiety – particularly when absences among colleagues are adding to individual workloads.
Social care staff will face challenges caused by the pandemic in their personal lives too and will be worried for themselves, and their own families. This worry may be heightened for those who are, or have dependants at home who are, considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and therefore have previously been advised to shield and take additional protective measures at home.
While not all care workers have high-risk dependants, there are many who will have school-age or pre-school children, or other care duties, and are balancing an increasing workload, looking after children with fewer childcare facilities available and being less able to take time off.
During a time where we are told to practise social distancing, the feeling of isolation will inevitably increase among those working alone in isolated services, including personal assistants and home care workers.
Many registered managers are struggling to maintain resilience during a time of increased pressure and difficult decision-making.
We recognise the significant anxiety surrounding access to personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s important that all of those providing care and support feel protected while doing their job.
There will be some care workers that are having to take time off work and may be facing additional financial worries as their financial support has been less than their usual pay.
While this is only natural it’s important that, as far as possible, we safeguard the wellbeing of those who work in adult social care.
This guidance includes tips, advice and toolkits that employers and managers can use to help build the resilience of their team and address any concerns their staff may have. There is also a section that provides guidance on how all those working in social care can manage their personal mental health in the current circumstances.
It’s crucial that all those providing care and support; both employers and employees, take some time to think about their own colleagues, residents and family’s health, safety and wellbeing now more than ever before. The resources included below will help to put in place solid foundations that can be built on in the future, beyond COVID-19.
Advice for employers and those who are self-employed
Staff wellbeing and support
It’s essential that employers are reinforcing the message that staff wellbeing remains an utmost priority. Some workers will face increased isolation in their work as well as their personal life and many will face a period of increased pressure and anxiety.
There are some useful tips and advice available on how employers can take care of the wellbeing of staff at work.
Wellbeing support and building resilience
Check in with team members regularly. It’s important that connections with work and colleagues carry on for those working remotely or flexibly. Managers and employees should establish regular check-ins and try using video, when possible and agreed between colleagues, to maintain face-to-face contact.
The British Psychological Society has put together a guide aimed at leaders and managers that provides practical advice on how to respond to how staff may be feeling during difficult phases of working and living through the pandemic.
Similarly, the Local Government Association has put together some key steps that they recommend employers take in order to support and protect the mental health of frontline staff at this time.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in partnership with the Chief Social Workers of England have developed guidance for the support and wellbeing of adult social workers and social care professionals.
Employers can encourage their teams to create a Wellness Action Plan and encourage them to share these with line managers. This is a personalised and practical tool for employees to use to identify how to address what keeps individuals mentally well at work and what can result in poor mental health. It also opens up a dialogue, helping supervisors better understand the needs and experiences of employees.
Registered managers can find advice on maintaining team resilience on the Skills for Care website. It includes 2 guides. One gives examples of things that can be done to reduce workplace stress and the other provides examples and case studies of adult social care employers that have developed the wellbeing of their staff by building resilience.
Support for registered managers
For registered managers, peer support is extremely important. Skills for Care has opened up its members Facebook group to other registered managers and frontline managers in similar roles. This is used to share advice, experiences and good practice.
Similarly, registered manager networks can offer local support and are establishing WhatsApp groups to allow registered managers to stay in touch.
Skills for Care have also opened a new advice telephone line (0113 241 1260) and email inbox (RMAdvice@skillsforcare.org.uk) to provide registered managers with more support.
Support for those who work alone
For home care workers, personal assistants and those working in isolated services, the nature of their work may mean that they already feel isolated. Skills for Care provides guidance on how to support staff who regularly work alone. It includes a section on supporting mental health and wellbeing and on communication and support.
This is in addition to Skills for Care’s existing guidance for people who employ their own staff and personal assistants, which includes where to find information about local support.
Other useful guidance
To maintain the provision of good-quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential that people who provide care and support can quickly and clearly communicate with primary care services, hospitals, community health services, local authorities, voluntary sector organisations, pharmacists and health services. There is practical guidance from Digital Social Care that has information on best practice for information sharing.
Digital Social Care has published lots of guidance and advice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on how technology can be used to support staff and the people they care for. They have also set up a new helpline to help providers access practical advice to troubleshoot a technical problem or give in-depth one-to-one support. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and you can either call 0208 133 3430 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skills for Care have developed the Workforce Wellbeing Resource Finder, which makes it easier for employers and staff to locate relevant wellbeing resources.
Example of good practice: Barchester Healthcare
Barchester Healthcare is an independent care provider that runs care homes and registered hospitals across the UK. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have introduced a number of initiatives to promote and support staff wellbeing. They have emphasised the importance of not only providing their staff with the right mental health support tools but ensuring that their staff receive regular communication that gives them the information, support and confidence to continue fulfilling their roles well at this time.
There are 3 key areas that they have focused on.
A COVID-19 support line has been set up for all staff employed by Barchester. This gives their staff the opportunity to unload or share any worries that they may be having with workers that have more experience of working in a care home and/or hospital environment.
Specific guidance has been created for their staff that provides advice on health and wellbeing, remote line management and using technology to stay in touch with colleagues. The management team also continues to promote the use of health and wellbeing apps, such as Headspace and Maudsley Learning.
Barchester have implemented a timetable of planned daily and weekly communication for all their staff, which seeks to recognise and thank their teams while continuing to provide corporate and official updates. They engage with their staff in a variety of ways, including conference calls, vlogs, daily bulletins and letters.
Learning and development
The learning and development team at Barchester have created some specific learning modules on leading through a crisis, supporting others with empathy, maintaining morale, building resilience and more. All leaders and managers at Barchester are encouraged to complete these.
Example of good practice: Central Bedfordshire
Wellbeing has been a key focus in Central Bedfordshire since they participated in a research and wellbeing project in 2019, in partnership with Bath Spa University and with support from public health and other council departments.
They have 4 key streams to their workforce wellbeing approach and have adapted them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Central Bedfordshire have implemented a workforce and wellbeing cell that provides a clear focus on the needs of the workforce. They help to identify and support any member of staff affected by COVID-19 and provide a point of contact.
The Bath Spa University Healthier Outcomes at Work (HOW) app and wellbeing toolkit were developed with input from practitioners and they went live in October 2019. In the past 6 weeks, the University has supported an update to the app to ensure that content is COVID-19-related. It has further enhanced its support and extended access to the social care workforce.
Staff wellbeing is promoted through newsletters, and staff are able to express the diversity of their working days through videos, cards, drawings, stories and poems.
Staff themselves have introduced initiatives, such as meditation, yoga and physical exercise sessions.
Central Bedfordshire have produced guides for adult social care staff and managers to enable practice conversations about death, dying and traumatic situations.
One of the biggest worries for social care staff is whether they can keep both those they care for and themselves safe, by effectively managing the risk of infection. The government has published guidance on infection prevention and control for health and care settings, including what recommended personal protective equipment should be used by social care workers in various care settings.
In cases when a member of staff is concerned that they, or someone they have been in contact with, may have symptoms of COVID-19, they should follow NHS advice. If they are advised to self-isolate at home, they should follow the government’s stay at home guidance.
Employees that are clinically extremely vulnerable
If you cannot work from home, we are no longer advising that you do not attend the workplace. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures. You may also want to consider how you get to and from work, including if it is possible to avoid using public transport during rush hour.
Although shielding has now been paused, there are a number of actions that employers may consider in managing individual risk:
Employers should have individual conversations with all members of their workforce who are clinically extremely vulnerable or are otherwise identified as being at increased risk, before a return to work or a return to a previous role.
If the employee can continue to work from home in their current role, they should be supported to do so.
Where it is not possible to work from home, wherever possible, staff at increased risk from COVID-19 should be supported to work in roles or settings which have been assessed as lower risk – for example, in office functions or by performing lower-risk activities within their normal role.
Employers should continue to assess risk and respond flexibly to factors which may increase risk in the workplace, such as an ongoing outbreak, or an increase in the community level of the virus.
Financial support and wellbeing
Anxiety about personal finances can understandably have an impact on someone’s ability to work. Employers can play a crucial role in supporting social care staff by taking proactive steps to promote emotional and financial wellbeing. However, we also recognise that staff absences and the need to back-fill roles will create additional financial pressures for care providers.
There are several initiatives in place to assist with such pressures:
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended to September 2021 with furloughed employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked. Some employers will decide to keep these workers on full pay, but employers can furlough these workers, to ensure that they continue to receive 80% of their normal income through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
People who provide care and support may have to self-isolate if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or live with someone who does. The government recognises that employers may struggle to deal with the increased costs of sick pay if many employees are unable to work due to coronavirus. That is why small and medium employers (fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020) will be able to claim back up to 2 weeks’ worth of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid to employees due to COVID-19 without the need to provide fit notes or isolation notes as evidence.
The adult social care winter plan highlights the emergency funding available to local authorities (now at £4.6 billion) to address the pressures on local services caused by the pandemic. This can be used to cover the cost of maintaining income as far as possible for social care staff that are currently unable to work as a result of following self-isolation measures. It also sets out an additional £341 million of funding to support adult social care providers as part of the Infection Control Fund. This can be used to ensure that staff who are isolating in line with government guidance receive their normal wages while doing so. It brings the total ringfenced funding for infection prevention and control to almost £1.35 billion.
There are a number of other business support measures that have been made available to UK businesses. Find out what financial support employers can get for their organisation during COVID-19.
Advice for the social care workforce
It is entirely normal to feel worried and anxious about coronavirus and how it might affect your life. This is an unsettling time – your normal routine has been disrupted and you may have been isolated from your social circles and support networks. It’s really important to look after your mental health during this time. We have set out some guidance to support your mental, physical and financial wellbeing.
Key steps to supporting your mental health
1) Add structure to your day and try to get into the habit of a daily routine
You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week. It’s also important to keep doing things you enjoy as this can give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.
Take a look at our section on physical wellbeing. Your physical health has a big impact on your mental wellbeing. Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, which provide stress relief and also boost your mood.
3) Connect with people
Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Try and stay in touch with family and friends via telephone, video or social media, particularly if you are feeling anxious.
4) Try not to continuously check the news
24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If this is having an impact on you, try to limit the time you spend engaging with the media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times during the day.
5) Maintain a regular sleep pattern
Good-quality sleep can have a positive impact on how you feel both mentally and physically. Every Mind Matters gives advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
6) Seek help if you are struggling
You can send a message with FRONTLINE to 85258 to start a conversation with Shout’s messaging support service. If you want to speak with someone directly, you can call Samaritans on 0300 131 7000 between 7am and 11pm every day. There are a number of other helplines that can offer expert advice.
The guidance for the public on mental wellbeing expands on these key steps and other ways you can support your mental health.
Building resilience and managing stress and anxiety
It’s important to find new ways of coping with increased pressure and being able to recover from difficulties. Skills for Care has a guide on how to build personal resilience. The guide includes tasks for you to complete that help you to recognise pressure and stress. It provides advice on developing your resilience through emotional intelligence, accurate thinking and realistic optimism.
MindEd has been put together to provide care and health workers with specific advice for managing your mental health during COVID-19. There is advice on managing stress and how to help each other, as well as dealing with trauma and bereavement.
The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety provides good advice on managing worries that you may be having.
During this difficult time, you may be struggling with the loss of friends, family members or colleagues. Being isolated from friends and family can make feelings of grief much more intense.
Hospice UK have launched an Adult Social Care Bereavement and Trauma line. You can speak to a specialist counsellor at 0300 303 4434. They are available between 8am and 8pm to support you if you have experienced a bereavement, have witnessed traumatic deaths as part of your work or need to discuss any other anxiety or emotional issues you are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are a number of other organisations offering bereavement support and signposting at this difficult time, including organisations that are specific to the adult social care workforce.
Existing mental health needs
There is existing guidance for those that have specific mental health needs, such as OCD, anxiety, claustrophobia, or a learning disability that provides advice on managing these needs at this time.
Further information and support
For further information and support, take a look at:
Try to keep active. If you are able to, go outside for a walk, run or bike ride once a day, as fresh air is extremely beneficial for your mental health.
If you are not able to exercise outdoors, there are several online workouts that you can follow at home. Public Health England provides free, easy 10-minute workouts and the NHS Fitness Studio also has a collection of accessible exercise videos.
Take time to relax – continue to do things you enjoy or try something new if you are restricted by having to stay at home. People who have successfully completed a period of staying at home have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films.
Ensure rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.
Financial wellbeing is about a sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs. It’s about being in control of your day-to-day finances and having the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us will be feeling more anxious or stressed about our finances than usual. You may face financial challenges due to being unable to work because you are unwell or because others in your household are not earning.
It is vital that we look after those employed in the care sector and the government is committed to ensuring that no care worker has to choose between doing the right thing and facing financial issues. The government has announced changes to the benefits regime and additional funding for adult social care to support employees financially during the COVID-19 outbreak. More details about the help that is available to you is presented in the following sections.
If you are unwell or someone in your household is unwell
It is important that you feel able to self-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or live with someone who does.
First check the terms and conditions of your pay with your employer.
If they are unable to continue to pay you your full salary, you might be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP will be available from day 1 and you must need to self-isolate for at least 4 days to be eligible. Those on zero-hour contracts will also receive SSP or will be able to claim Universal Credit, depending on their circumstances.
Wider offers of financial support
- Financial help if you’re self-employed
- Get an isolation note to give to your employer
- Your rights if your hours are cut or you’re laid off
- What to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time
Mind provides advice on managing debt and the positive steps you can take to address this.
Citizen’s Advice offer some specific COVID-19 advice on what to do if you are struggling to pay your bills. This includes rent, council tax, mortgage, energy bills, court orders and tax bills. It is important that these bills are not ignored as this can make the situation worse. Please do read the advice and seek support to help you out.
You can contact the National Debtline for free, confidential and independent advice on dealing with debt problems.
The Money Advice Service is an independent service set up by government that works to improve people’s financial wellbeing across the UK. It gives free, impartial money advice through its online portal, over WhatsApp, and over the phone.
It provides guidance across a wide range of money matters, including a number of useful tools and calculators to help people manage their money. If your finances have been impacted by COVID-19 the Money Navigator Tool can help you identify the support you may need and provide tailored information and guidance.
If you have any concerns
It is important that your rights as a worker are protected, especially during these challenging times. Similarly, you have a professional duty to act if you are concerned that the safety of those that you care for is at risk. If you have any concerns about employment practices, it’s important that you raise these.
First, any concerns should be raised with your senior management team. There will be guidance in your workplace about what to do.
You can contact your union or professional body, if you have one, for advice about what to do if you have concerns. They can play a helpful role in trying to resolve any problems you may be facing and improve workplace practice.
Finally, if you want to report a serious case of bad practice or have been unsuccessful in resolving any issues with your organisation, you can contact the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and local council safeguarding teams.