Bailed out and burned out? The financial impact of COVID-19 on UK care homes for older people and their workforce

Bailed out and burned out? The financial impact of COVID-19 on UK care homes for older people and their workforce

We are pleased to share this final report on the financial impacts of the pandemic on UK care homes and their staff. Our thanks to all of you for your interest in, and contributions to, the research. The findings were covered in the BBC and other media.

Key findings:

  1. Without £2 billion of government support, and care workers working longer and harder, the sector would almost certainly have collapsed financially during the first year of COVID. That emergency funding helped to stabilise care homes early in the pandemic. Some even paid out more to investors: a quarter of companies increased dividends, by 11%.
  2. Government support focused on keeping care homes financially viable, with only a small proportion devoted directly to supporting staff who were working in extreme circumstances. As many as 4 in 10 care home staff reported financial problems related to working in care during the pandemic.
  3. The financial impacts on staff varied by ownership type and size. Staff experiences were more positive in not-for-profits and smaller organisations on a range of measures.
  4. Staff valued in-person support from colleagues, managers, and external professionals.
  5. Since the peak of the pandemic, the care home sector has faced a financial crisis due to the removal of government financial support despite continuing COVID outbreaks, workforce shortages and inflation.

Our recommendations include:  

  1. Improved contingency planning for the financial impacts of future pandemics and their consequences for staffing, including creating a standby emergency social care workforce.
  2. Sustained government support for care homes coping with the lasting impacts of pandemics.
  3. Public funding for care, including emergency support during pandemics, should take account of evidence showing varying outcomes by ownership type and should seek to promote forms of provision that offer both good care and good jobs.
  4. Government and employers should improve pay and conditions for care staff, in general and especially during pandemics (including recognition payments, enhanced sick pay and overtime rates).
  5. Government should work with employers to promote a better understanding of how care staff experience their working lives, for example through an annual national workforce survey and to ensure adequate personal, professional, and clinical support is accessible to social care staff, particularly during a pandemic.

Please share the report with your networks and let us know what you think on TwitterLinkedIn or by email: Updates on media coverage and policy engagement will also appear on our website.

Best wishes,

Professor Marianna Fotaki, Dr Amy Horton, David Rowland, Dr Derya Ozdemir Kaya, Dr Aaron Gain

Warwick Business School, UCL, Centre for Health and the Public Interest, University of Sussex & University of Brighton