(Guest blog from the Live-In Care Hub for The UKHCA Blog)

Whilst we’re all going to have to learn to live with Covid-19, the vaccination program is substantially reducing the link between infection rates and hospitalisations. Now is the time to examine how UKHCA members who provide 24/7 live-in care and are members of The Live in Care Hub performed and delivered over the last 15 months with a focus on the safety record of the sector.

The Live-in Care Hub’s membership is made up of over twenty live-in care providers. We have published research, independently authenticated by the Personal Social Services Research Unit affiliated to Kent University and the London School of Economics, and from other sources, on the benefits and advantages of 24/7 live-in care.  We also raise public awareness of this alternative care option to residential care.  While doing so, the Hub has become a platform for service improvement.

Despite being in competition with each other, individual Hub members share best practice and have helped each other source vital personal protective equipment (PPE) when it was extremely difficult to obtain.  We have helped each other to interpret often conflicting government information, have guided each other through rapidly changing (and sometimes unclear) guidance, as well as helping each other to source carers, and even clients when needed to balance supply and demand between member organisations.

Early COVID testing initiatives going back to the early Summer of 2020 have also been shared.

As part of this openness and client focus, each of the individual Live-in Care Hub members shared anonymised data about COVID-19 infection rates within their services with the group. What would normally be seen as proprietary to providers has been freely shared to enable members of the Hub to examine failure (to learn from it and improve) and to recognise success (to do more of it).

What have we learned?

Live-in care is remarkably safe

Sadly, through the two major waves from March to May 2020 and December 2020 to March 2021, about 8% of people living in care homes died from Covid-19 (Source: ONS data). It is an even bigger tragedy, because it was not through any fault of care home staff or management.

In 24/7 live-in care services, the death rate was 2% (Source: Live-in Care Hub) and that was exclusively amongst people who were aged 80 years and above; the group at highest risk of mortality from coronavirus.

We believe that this is principally because having a live-in carer for those that need 24/7 support has enabled people to stay in their own home where they were able to self-isolate with their carer, and they have been able to follow the rules to keep themselves safe.

Live-in care has enabled people to have a relatively good quality of life

This is because people choosing live-in care have had just the same freedoms as the rest of us. Of course, during lockdowns, people using 24/7 live-in care were unable to see their friends and neighbours for months at a time, but they have all had a carer with them, so have never been truly alone.  Whenever restrictions have eased, they were able to see family and friends.

As we know, people living in care homes, or indeed in hospital, were unable to enjoy these freedoms because of the heightened risks of cross-infection which has produced considerable unhappiness and distress.

Live-in care is good value for money

The longstanding myth is that 24/7 live in care is expensive. There is certainly a cost, but in practice it is affordable for most people who own their own homes. The UK has amongst the highest owner occupation ratios in Europe and thus most older couples can now borrow flexibly against the equity in their homes.  People can choose to service the borrowing every year, avoiding rolling-up of the debt and the potential loss of the home to next generations. And in the meantime, the home will typically increase in value.

The results of the research are compelling, but live-in care still remains a small part of the overall care sector. However Hub members report growing demand for good live-in care. Our current challenge is finding enough good carers; this is a sector-wide challenge for all of us. Underfunded social care fosters the public’s perception of care being an unattractive career choice.  That is a misconception, but is clearly a much broader challenge which is being addressed by UKHCA in its current campaign to hold Government to account for its promises to solve the long-term funding of care.

Find out more about The Live in Care Hub atwww.liveincarehub.co.uk