29th January 2021

The joint statement issued on 26th January by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission and the Association of Directors of Public Health made it clear that staff who have tested positive may not work in a care setting unless and until they have isolated for the legally-required period.

It is our understanding that it was decided that this communication, which was sent to all registered providers, was considered necessary because it had been identified that on a small number of occasions, social care staff with a positive test result did not isolate and continued to work.

ARC and its members do, of course support the principle that staff with a positive test must isolate and in situations where workforce capacity challenges make this difficult for a provider, that solutions must be agreed with Local Authority and CCG funding partners including local Public Health teams.

However, providers of services for people with learning disabilities have worked tirelessly to keep the vulnerable people they support, their loved ones and staff teams safe and in many cases, have done so whilst operating under extraordinary financial pressures and it was pleasing that this was recognised when the Department for Health and Social Care was recently quoted as saying “the social care sector has done a brilliant job of caring for our most vulnerable during this incredibly challenging time”.

ARC’s view is that for the vast majority of recipients of this letter, it was an unnecessary communication that, because it adopted a somewhat directive tone, has resulted in avoidable disquiet.

We have been told by our members about the practical and financial support that they have received from their Local Authority throughout the pandemic and about the effectiveness of working in concert with local social care and public health systems, and we know that many providers have put in measures that far exceed those required by the statement signatory bodies, both in terms of efficacy and more importantly timing. These have had a great impact in keeping the virus out of services and the statement gives no recognition of this.

We believe that partnership working is more likely to result in jointly-agreed solutions and better outcomes for the vulnerable people the sector supports because it recognises the importance of the working relationships with providers that are fighting hard to keep people safe and to keep services operating during a time of unprecedented pressure. Should colleagues wish to understand more about these, we would be happy to find ways to work together with and through ARC and its members to positively showcase a balanced picture.

We would emphasise that we have no direct knowledge about those incidents or the circumstances under which staff continued to work when they have tested positive, and we are not aware of any occasions when this has happened in services operated by our members.

Clive Parry
Director, ARC England