Impact: what does the campaign to combat coronavirus mean for social workers?

The Prime Minister expects the COVID-19 outbreak to reach its peak in two to three weeks. We are five days into the ‘stay at home’ phase of the campaign which will rely on social workers and the support they provide.

In a week when Pertemps Professional Recruitment has sourced much needed PPE for hundreds of social workers around the country, we consider the impact on the social care sector:

Coronavirus bill: what it means for social care

Under the bill, cleared by the House of Lords without amendments, NHS and local authorities may lawfully prioritise who they support and how.

Under normal circumstances, the NHS and local authorities are required to meet all eligible assessed needs as specified under the Care Act 2014. However, it is anticipated that adult social care services will face significantly increased demand and reduced capacity arising from higher rates of staff absence. It may become impossible for local authorities to operate at current service levels or undertake the usual detailed assessments.

This action would only be prompted ‘if the spread of coronavirus was such that the Secretary of State considered local authorities to be at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties under the Care Act 2014 and would be deactivated at the conclusion of the emergency period’.

Emergency funding for local authorities

The Chancellor has put aside £1.6bn  for councils to manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their services, including social care. The sector was also given £1.3bn to free up 15,000 hospital beds before today, Friday 27 March. Along with the planned cancellation of routine surgery (taking effect on 1 April), it is estimated that 30,000 of the country’s 100,000 hospital beds will be freed up for patients infected with coronavirus.

Temporary registration for former social workers

The government has identified social workers as key workers with a critical role in their campaign to limit the effect of the coronavirus.

Social Work England has been asked to recruit previously registered social workers during the emergency. Approximately 8,000 social workers have left the register since 18 March 2018 and are deemed to have the recent experience and training required to play a vital role in helping communities through the emergency.

The regulator has acknowledged that it may be appropriate to accept final year social work students onto the register at this time. Colum Conway, Chief Executive of Social Work England has said in the coming days he will consider the implications of such a move in relation to local need and implementation.

Fast track to temporary registration

To ensure that the necessary DBS checks can be processed, and to allow previously registered social workers to operate in these unprecedented circumstances, the DBS Standard and Enhanced ID checking guidance will temporarily change.

The amended process allows:

  • Identification documents to be sighted over a video link
  • Scanned images to be used prior to the DBS check being submitted

In all cases, the original documents must be sighted when the applicant first attends their temporary employment or volunteer role.