Dec 21

Helping social care managers to get ready for winter

Posted: 9 December 2021

December is here. While this time of year can bring much fun and festivities, it can also be a particularly challenging time of year for social care.

To help you prepare for the winter period, we’ve put together a guide to key information and resources that can help you get ready for winter, including advice on how to manage safe staffing levels to ensure you have the capacity required to provide the best care and support, and information on the latest COVID-19 precautions.

Safe staffing levels

Having enough staff, who have the right values and skills, is vital in delivering safe care and support, and is one of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) standards.

Even when you’ve put good processes in place to support safe staffing, changes in circumstance – such as increased sickness levels or self-isolation due to COVID-19, can still present challenges. That’s why it’s important to take all these considerations into account when planning for winter.

The first step to safe staffing is deciding how many staff you need, making sure to consider the needs of the people you support, alongside other factors such as time for additional activities, reporting, training, and travel time.

You can do this using a dependency tool which allows you to collate information about the needs of the people you support, how many hours of support and number of staff are required, and time and resource needed for other tasks such as administration, record keeping, and communicating.

Once you know how many staff you need at each time, the next step is to create and communicate a staff rota based on this. The challenges which may arise in winter is where step three comes into play – contingency planning.

Find out more about safe staffing in our ‘Guide to safe staffing.’

Winter contingency planning

It’s always good to have a plan b in place for when unexpected circumstances may arise – for example a shortage of staff in winter due to sickness or disrupted travel.

Our top tips on contingency planning for winter and all year-round are:

You can find case studies of how different providers are managing winter contingency planning on our winter staffing needs webpage, where we spoke with providers about how they’ve tackled staffing challenges and applied learning from last year.

This includes using bank staff, redeploying staff from other roles, working with an intensive support team, and using recruitment initiatives to help to recruit new staff.

Creating your own contingency plan

Your contingency plan should be a live document that helps you to respond to the evolving pandemic and winter pressures.

As well as the tips above, other activities that can help you to develop a contingency plan include:

  • building on existing examples by using templates or examples from other providers
  • risk assessing your service particularly in relation to COVID-19 so you can identify what risks to be prepared for
  • co-producing the plan with other key players in your team
  • prioritising actions.

Find more tips for creating a successful contingency plan in our ‘Practical ways for your contingency plan to succeed’ guide.

Also have a look at our ‘What to include in your contingency plan’ template and our contingency planning FAQs.

COVID-19 and flu precautions

This winter there are further considerations to account for in relation to the impact of COVID-19, as well as flu and seasonal illnesses.

The government has published a ‘COVID-19 winter plan 2021 to 22’ which sets out key elements of national support available for the social care sector during winter 2021 to 2022 and actions that social care providers in England should take this winter.

Useful guidance from this plan which social care managers can utilise include information on how to gain access to free personal protective equipment (PPE) by using the PPE portal; information on how PPE should be used in different settings; information on COVID-19 testing and how to access testing, and information on how to manage winter visiting in residential care homes.

The guidance also highlights that social care workers will have access to free flu vaccinations this winter as well as COVID-19 booster vaccinations.

Information for individual employers and personal assistants

For individual employers who hire their own staff and for those people who work as personal assistants there will be specific considerations to bear in mind to prepare for the winter period.

Our ‘Planning, keeping safe and being prepared’ webinar includes useful information and advice for individual employers.


For more information and guidance on planning for winter watch our ‘Contingency planning and winter pressures’ webinar.