Jun 20

Choosing to care

Posted: 2 June 2020

Chosen Care Group offer home care across 22 London boroughs and have offered over one million hours of care and support to more than 250 clients. One of their directors Pakkirisamy Bhoopalan Natarajan looks how his company has dealt with the impact of this pandemic

The current pandemic has created unchartered waters through which we feel like we are having to swim or sink.

We also feel we have some advantages when it comes to the type of service we offer because the majority of support we provide is on a 1:1 basis. This means we don’t have the same challenges as the hospital wards and care homes when considering cross infection issues, or social distancing measures.

Instead we have managed throughout this challenging time, to maintain 90% of our workforce, and offer continuity of support of as good quality as before the dreaded COVID-19 reared its ugly head. For this we are incredibly thankful, and wish only the best for other providers who have so far not been so fortunate. 

Financially, we reached out to Barclays Bank, and have been so pleased with their support which included arranging a Corona Virus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS) for us within a week. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has supported many small providers like us to manage the financial pressure they currently have, and the process is much quicker and required limited amount of information only.

We have always had a continuous order for sufficient PPE stock and this has not been interrupted at this time. We have tried to tap into the additional resources offered though. The increased use of gloves and aprons has meant that we have gone through the PPE quicker than usual and we had to minimise the risk of potential shortage.

And whilst we know the challenges the Councils and Government are facing with PPE, our experience around accessing support in this regard has been a little disappointing to say the least – but that is something we will reflect on after this is all over as we appreciate that this is not an easy situation for anyone.  For now, the main thing is we are keeping our staff supplied with appropriate PPE and ultimately be as safe as they can be.

Home working

We pride ourselves in trying to be one step ahead and we held a COVID-19 preplanning meeting in early March with our office colleagues. We implemented home working two weeks before the government advised this, and identified the biggest challenge was how to support the frontline care workers who were going out to work, knowing at that time that the situation was sure to get worse before improving.

At that point 95% of the care workers stood up, leaving their family behind and continued to work in the community despite the virus. When we asked, why are you still willing to work, the common theme was not wanting to let down the service users they have built meaningful relationships with.

Skills for Care and the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) have played a major role in acting on behalf of providers during this pandemic, and their communication to ministers and policy makers include that the UKHCA has written to Treasury to ask they consider the additional financial burden felt by providers have in terms of PPE Cost. The treasury has announced Zero rated VAT on PPE Purchase by the providers for the period from 1st May to 31st July, which is welcomed.

Skills for Care contributes and adds value to the care sector all the time and mainly in this unprecedented situation. Registered Managers network have come together to solve the current issues that raises in the given situation such as sharing good practice, strengthening the workforce, Partnership working between the providers, delivering virtual training for the workforce so that the current vacancy is filled and able to maintain quality care.

National appreciation

We truly appreciate the public clapping social care workers every Thursday at 8 pm, and when this crisis is finally over there will be many questions that will need to be asked and answered about how we treated, supported, paid and protected these valuable national assets.

But until that day (which we pray is sooner than later) we are focusing on the practical not political aspects that this unprecedented situation has presented, and are feeling confident that we will come out the other side a stronger service.

Quite what the new ‘future’ of health and social care will look like only time will tell, but, until then, we are just focussing on keep each other safe.