In some social care services you may have staff who have had to shield and you may need to recruit staff while maintaining social distancing. See the information below on government support, recruitment and risk assessment (staff, who are new, who are returning after self-isolation, or at higher risk from COVID-19).
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many restrictions on care services, due to the risk of infection to the people care services support. In turn, many other risks have been identified – risks to the health of the workforce, around visits to care homes, visits to clients’ homes for domiciliary care, in returning to work after an infection, in using equipment and so on. Being aware of the main principles of risk assessment, and being able to apply them to different hazards, is a valuable skill.
There are five main steps to creating a risk assessment, and these are listed by the Health and Safety Executive
Hazards might include using equipment, such as PPE, incorrectly, or may be to the person, such as stress. Hazards might have different effects on different people, so identifying who is at risk is also important.
Evaluations involve judging the level of the risk and the likelihood of it happening. Precautions can reduce the likelihood and are actions you take for everyone to reduce risk, for example, isolating people with COVID-19 from others, keeping medication in a locked cupboard or making sure that there is an appropriate place and space in someone’s home to put on and take off PPE. Mitigation is an action taken to reduce the potential harm of a known risk, for example providing additional training to someone on infection control.
Sometimes, a person will be at greater risk than others doing the same activity. Each care setting will have a different set of risks, for domiciliary care a considerable risk is sessional use of PPE between clients and whilst driving. We know with COVID-19 that people from black and minority ethnic families, older people, people with underlying conditions and women who are pregnant are at greater risk of harm from COVID-19. In this case, you will need to evaluate the risk as greater and think of ways it can be mitigated. It’s important that you keep a record of your risk assessment activity, and that it is reviewed regularly, or when the context changes. An example of a changed context is when COVID-19 emerged: infection control risks and precautions needed to be reviewed and changed.
There are lots of templates for risk assessment, but it’s important to understand the risks in a specific context, for example a care home, a workforce or an environment. Developing skills in risk assessment helps in improving process. It’s also important to remember that it’s not possible to make all activities risk-free, but knowing what risks there are, and thinking about precautions and mitigations will make your assessments much more effective.
Recruitment and retention
Skills for Care recruitment and retention resources
Recruitment and retention related webinars
Employers across all social care settings are currently facing additional workforce challenges brought about by COVID-19. Adult social care employers of all sizes have a duty of care to secure the health, safety and welfare of members of staff and people who use services.
To support you to assess and reduce COVID-19 risks to your workforce, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published a COVID-19: adult social care risk reduction framework covering measures you could put in place across the workforce and for individuals.
For employers continuing to recruit throughout the pandemic, government agencies have developed emergency processes which support faster recruitment of staff to the sector. CQC COVID-19 interim guidance on DBS and other recruitment checks is for providers recruiting staff and volunteers to health and social care services in response to COVID-19. You may also find the CQC Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page contains further useful information. Right to work checks have been temporarily adjusted during the pandemic, making it easier for employers to carry out checks remotely. And the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has set up a dedicated webpage containing factsheets, updated guidelines and news stories related to DBS and coronavirus.
Employees unable to work because they have coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, or are self-isolating or shielding, are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Find out if you can claim back up to two weeks of SSP via the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.
Both employers and employees should try to be as flexible as they can about holiday during COVID-19, taking into consideration everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Detailed guidance covering holiday entitlement and pay during COVID-19
For employees who may be facing additional hardships at this time, some charitable organisations and Unions are offering financial and welfare assistance. The Care Worker’s Charity, for example, has established a COVID-19 Emergency Fund providing grants related to self-isolation or other unexpected costs, including funeral costs. UNISON has set up a COVID-19 Response Fund and can provide one-off grants of £250 to members in difficulty due to coronavirus, or other financial assistance for those experiencing unexpected hardship.
For providers employing international employees, you can direct staff with any queries or concerns to the Home Office COVID-19 guidance for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents, which includes contact details of the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.