The team from law firm, Royds Withy King, discuss the issues the social care sector will need to address in 2021.
Last year was one of the most traumatic periods for the social care sector in living memory.
While its impact will be long felt, care providers will be looking for clarity, security and a return to normality in 2021, says the dedicated social care team at law firm Royds Withy King.
A deepening workforce crisis
James Sage, partner and head of social care at Royds Withy King said the workforce crisis will come to a head in 2021 when the realities of Brexit and the new immigration system hit home, says.
‘Care providers are facing significant staff shortages with over 100,000 unfilled vacancies compounded by poor retention rates.
‘The sector relies on staff from across the world and the new immigration system significantly restricts access to them. This is already deterring overseas workers from staying in the UK and will make it harder to bring in much-needed staff.
‘Despite cutting off access to overseas workers, the government has failed to develop a coherent workforce strategy for social care to increase recruitment from the UK workforce.
‘Proposed changes to CQC regulations due to the covid pandemic will add further pressure on staffing.
‘In November, we polled 136 care home operators and 70% said that they are bracing themselves for staff shortages if the proposed changes to Regulation 18 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 are adopted in their current form.
‘However, we hope that the roll-out of testing and covid vaccines for care staff will help alleviate some of the challenges faced by providers to date.’
Retirement will drive corporate activity
Hazel Phillips, partner, Royds Withy King says the covid pandemic has already seen care home operators approaching retirement choose to accelerate those plans. That will, she says, drive a spate of M&A activity, particularly once lenders open their books to the sector again.
‘M&A activity reduced considerably in the first half of 2020, but there is pent-up demand from investors, new market entrants and existing operators who wish to grow and expand.
‘We have already seen encouraging signs in the market and expect 2021 to be a busy year for corporate activity in the sector.’
In January, CQC will roll out a consultation on its proposed new ways of regulating. It has indicated that this will include four emerging strategy themes, People, Smart, Safe, and Improve.
The consultation will take place in January, with the proposed changes likely to take effect in May 2021.
Mei-Ling Huang, partner, Royds Withy King said: ‘We have heard CQC explain that they wish to become a more supportive regulator, yet we have also seen the regulatory pressure on providers increasing year on year, with no exceptions made in 2020.
‘Care providers should ensure that they take the time to have their say in this consultation as CQC’s new ways of working are likely to have a substantial impact on their services in 2021 and beyond.
‘It may be difficult for providers, managers and care staff to get to grips with a new regime while exhausted and potentially still struggling with the pandemic.’
CQC will also be issuing an advanced care planning review, covering issues like DNACPR, in early 2021. This is likely to contain information about best practice and recommendations on how to support people’s human rights at the end of life.
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