Delivering home and live-in care on the frontline during the COVID19 pandemic

Published: 27/10/2020

Bluebird Care gives Observer readers a valuable insight in to what it’s been like delivering a home and live-in care service to vulnerable people in their own homes during 2020

Home Care Basingstoke


At the risk of making a huge understatement, March was a really challenging month; full of worry and uncertainty about what might be to come. By mid-March it was clear that the country would be locked down and self-isolation and shielding rules would be brought in to force. For a business that depends on its employees to deliver a service there was a real concern about maintaining staffing levels to provide the care our customers depend on whilst also ensuring that we looked after our care assistants’ health and wellbeing.

Happily, in reality, the numbers of our staff who had to isolate for either 7 or 14 days was manageable. Because of the salaried employment contracts Bluebird Care offers to all its care staff we operate with more spare capacity than other similar companies whilst helped us cope with the 10% drop in staffing levels we experienced as employees took time off work.  This meant we were still able to deliver all of our customers’ care visits even as the pandemic took hold.


In April it became obvious that sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was going to be the single most important thing we were going to have to do.  Initially there was panic over sourcing enough PPE because of its scarcity, however, it soon became clear that the real issue that faced us was buying PPE at affordable prices as a large number of unscrupulous suppliers jumped at the chance to make huge profits by selling gloves, aprons and facemasks often at prices up to 20 times what would be considered normal.  Our head office team at Bluebird Care in Kingsclere invested many hours in sourcing PPE to ensure that the company was always able to deliver care with the necessary gloves, aprons and face masks as recommended by the government and Public Health England (PHE) at the time. The cost of doing so was astronomical, however, we worked hard to fund the costs from a combination of our own resources and government grants meaning that none of the financial burden was been passed on to our customers.


Sadly, many care homes continued to have severe problems during May with tragic reports of deaths and whilst this is not our area of expertise our hearts went out to our colleagues working in this setting and we joined with many others in sending our support and praise for the work that our fellow care professionals do in residential settings all over the country.

Home and live-in care has different challenges as our customers live in their own homes with little or no exposure to people other than our own care assistants.  So we play a major role in ensuring they stay safe and well.

We were so proud of our care team when we were able to say that there were no reported cases of COVID19 within our cohort of customers up to this point. This was down to the professionalism, dedication and commitment that our whole team had showed every single day. At the same time it was important that there was no complacency as the job was far from done and everyone in the company continued to work hard to ensure that we maintained these high standards of home and live-in care.


June saw the announcement of 14 day quarantine periods for new arrivals in to the UK which was a real concern for businesses like ours both for staff travelling abroad on holiday and other staff members who reside outside the UK travelling to their home country for periods of time before returning to work in the UK.  If they were to be required to quarantine on their return to the UK that would dramatically increase the time a staff member had to take away from work.  This became a real challenge for our live-in care business as some staff were stranded abroad and unable to come back to the UK to work.  We had hoped that the UK government would add Care Assistants to the exempt list, unfortunately this did not happen.

Testing also started to become an issue for us as availability to tests was patchy and there were delays in getting results for staff and their families which delayed their return to work. Towards the end of the month some of the country’s lockdown rules started to be relaxed and the government’s NHS Test and Trace rules were introduced.



Although other business sectors such as retail and hospitality suffered terribly during the pandemic, we have seen an increase in job applications over the last couple of months and the first of our new care staff from those sectors were already starting to pass through their probationary periods in July.  We expect some of them will be with us temporarily until their own sectors restart but can already see that many of them will stay in care and be a real asset to our industry.

Infection control measures were changing rapidly for the general public and guidance about facemasks and meeting in groups inside and outside the home was getting complicated.  However, there were no changes to the precautions that we needed to take whilst working in home care and so our staff continued to wear facemasks, gloves and aprons and adhere to the latest government guidance for our industry.

Much relief for many staff members in the office and in the care team; McDonalds is reopening!



The government’s shielding programme finished in August and whilst that was much welcomed by our customers as they could see more of their friends and family it was also challenging for us to keep infection control at the forefront of our minds as more social contact could lead to a rise of infections and so efforts were redoubled to ensure that everyone was kept safe and well in their own homes.

Some elements of PPE were once again difficult and expensive to source as suppliers ran out of stocks and demand from other parts of the world diverted imported supplies to the UK.  Nitrile gloves seemed particularly difficult to get hold of and once again many hours were spent on the phone ensuring that enough supplies were secured to take us through the winter and in to the New Year.

Sadly, COVID19 infections in England started to rise again this month and we started to prepare for a winter with COVID19.


Many of our office and care staff have school age children and for many weeks there was uncertainty about schools returning.  In the event, schools did open for the new term and although there were some cases of suspected infection, happily, all those that were tested came back with negative results.

With autumn well and truly taking hold flu vaccinations were a hot topic this month and it was more important than ever that we encourage all our staff to have a ‘flu jab’ so that they are protected and do not become more susceptible to COVID19.

The government’s infection control grant has been extended and although it took quite some effort to ensure that home care providers like Bluebird Care with predominantly self funding customers received their fair share of funding we are delighted to say that Hampshire County Council have confirmed that funding will be available to ensure that all our staff are paid even if they need to isolate and that their mental and physical health will be well looked after through the rest of 2020 and in to 2021.

October 2020 and the future

There will be many more challenges to come over the next weeks and months, particularly as the winter takes hold; more decisions to be made and more hard work and tough times ahead. However, having been awarded an outstanding rating by the CQC for the well-led care standard in January 2020 we are well placed to meet these challenges on behalf of our customers.


Bluebird Care is a home and live-in care provider based in Kingsclere, CQC rated as ‘Outstanding’ for the Well-Led care standard. You can contact them on 01256 762324 or for more information and advice about care.