SOUTHEND Council is “highly concerned” about the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on “fragile” care homes.

Alison Griffin, chief executive of the council, has detailed her concerns in a letter to health minister Helen Whately.

The Government has asked all UK authorities to detail how the care market is coping with the pandemic and what steps they are taking to support homes.

Southend has been given £2,734,683 in financial support to help care homes from the Government’s £600 million Infection Control Fund.

Seventy-five per cent of the cash injection will go straight to the 95 care providers in Southend, equating to £970.20 per bed.

In her letter, Ms Griffin said the care market in Southend had been “fragile” for some time and has asked the minister if the Government will consider relaxing the conditions attached to this funding.

This is because smaller care home providers may not meet the required level of expenditure and staffing levels to be eligible for Government aid.

Ms Griffin said: “The limitations are likely to be particularly difficult for the sector in Southend, where around three quarters of our providers run only one home, and where the average size of homes is around 20 beds.

“I would be grateful if your department could review the impact of these requirements prior to issuing tranche 2 [the second] funding, and look to a relaxation for small providers.”

Ms Griffin added, however, that the overall death rate in care homes was low, and that she was grateful for the Government support received so far.

Trevor Harp, cabinet member for health and social care, said: “We have rolled out and continue to progress our testing in our care homes and we have been working closely with our local provider sector, and with the NHS, to provide support and guidance in order to keep the residents of Southend safe throughout the pandemic.

“The council also opened a dedicated 13-bed, Covid-19 care unit for care home residents discharged from hospital with a positive test result or awaiting their test results.

“This was in direct response to concerns from care providers about accepting residents back following hospital care when they could have the virus and since opening a month ago, Priory House has supported eight individuals.

“We will be unveiling our new care sector support plan and explain how we will support infection control work with £2.7m of funding.”