Kate Allen, CEO Update 29th May 2020
Why is the guidance around Covid-19 so confusing – and sometimes even conflicting?
I don’t have the answer but then neither, it seems, does anyone else! However, as an organisation supporting vulnerable adults, we have remained focused on how we spend our energy and resources; providing consistent, and the best possible support to autistic people in this unpredictable situation they, and we, are experiencing.
I cannot complain that there has been a lack of information. Indeed, Autism at Kingwood has received a plethora of information from different local authorities, various regulators, and helpful bodies and agencies. However, underpinning our response and the approach we have taken is always the guidance from NHS England and Public Health England, to ensure our actions are keeping people we support and our staff as safe as possible.
In accordance with their guidance, the requirement remains that staff must wear a facemask if they are within 2 metres of someone they are supporting – even if there is no contact. In reality this means that generally our staff need to wear masks for the entire time that they are working.
This can be incredibly confusing and frightening for people we support who do not understand the necessity for masks. We have adopted a number of steps to help such as wearing a badge with the entire face of the member staff, and saying ‘hello’ through the window at the beginning of a shift. We also have a number of fabric masks that sewing groups have made which are available for people we support – so that ‘everyone’ is wearing a mask. These are small but important measures to reduce fear. However for some people this has had little affect and adhering to the safety measures is proving difficult. In those instances we have assessments in place to reduce the risk as much as possible.
However, we firmly believe our approach is working, as we have had no new cases amongst people we support since early May. We currently have two staff symptomatic and absent; one towards the end of their illness and recovering well, and one new case.
As the outbreak progressed, country-wide reporting improved and we are contributing to those statistics. We report daily to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and provide regular updates to local authorities. However, only people in supported living services who receive close support with personal care tasks such as assistance with bathing, intimate dressing or physical help with medication arrangements are within the remit of CQC – and this amounts to just 44 of the people we support.
For many years, we had one CQC Registered Manager as a point of contact, but we have recently decided to separate our CQC registration into two regions with our two Regional Directors each having their own registration. For us this will mean increased scrutiny and inspection; and we have no reason to fear that. There will be two inspection reports in future, one for support provided in Oxfordshire and another for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. We were expecting an inspection just prior to lockdown and had started the pre-inspection process, but this of course stopped. CQC have revised their processes to conduct remote assessments on a risk basis and are currently prioritising what they deem as higher risk services. I am expecting that once these are completed, we will have a remote assessment, probably at some point over the summer.
Finally, you may have heard that Government pledged recently a further £600 million for care homes. Unfortunately Autism at Kingwood is just one of many adult social care providers which will not benefit from these funds, as we don’t provide support in the ‘care home’ model. However, most of our commissioning authorities do have either Covid-19 emergency funds where we can apply for help with additional costs, or they have provided one-off payments to assist. It is a tough financial position for so many at the moment, not just in adult social care. We are closely monitoring our financial position and I am fully confident that whilst things are tight, we have survived 26 years (10 of them in austerity) and we shall continue to do.
Kate Allen, CEO