Care home futures look bleak if government funding is pulled

Mary Wimbury, Care Forum North Wales.
Mary Wimbury, Care Forum North Wales.

That’s the warning from Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 independent social care providers, who say the Welsh Government’s “vital” financial lifeline is only guaranteed until the end of March.

Chief executive Mary Wimbury said cutting it would be a hammer blow to the care homes that are already teetering of brink of financial ruin.

She said they had been hit hard by a double whammy of soaring costs and plummeting income as a result of the pandemic.

The Welsh Government had so far provided an extra £88 million in funding for social care but there is no guarantee that additional funding will be available after March 31.

Ms Wimbury said: “Unlike a lot of other businesses, care homes have to carry on during this pandemic and their costs have gone up – it’s things like the increased staffing, infection control measures and also we’ve seen more empty beds during the crisis so income’s gone down,”.

“We’ve only got a guarantee that’s going to be there until the end of March this year and it’s absolutely vital if we’re to keep the sector sustainable in any way that it continues beyond that because we’re not going to have seen the end of the pandemic by the end of March.

“If the funding stops, I can’t see how we won’t see care homes closing, very sadly.

“That will obviously have a serious effect – not just on future provision, but also on those people that live in those homes. The last thing you want is for vulnerable, older people to have to move in any circumstances, but particularly during a pandemic.”

“As well as supporting the sector in the short-term, it’s also vital that care homes and domiciliary care survive in the longer-term because the need for them is not going to go away.

“The social care sector has previously been recognised by the Welsh Government as one the key pillars of the foundation economy in Wales.

“Before this crisis care homes on average were running at around 91 per cent occupancy which has just about enabled them to keep going despite the funding challenges.

“As a result of the outbreak, occupancy levels are falling and wage costs are going through the roof while income is dropping. If average occupancy drops to 85 per cent or even below the whole of the infrastructure of social care in Wales is under genuine threat. Occupancy levels at many care homes has dropped to 50 per cent or less and that’s just totally unsustainable.”