The COVID pandemic has resulted in numerous sudden changes for all of us and understandably, many have found it difficult to adapt. A recent study by Headway found that the impact on brain injury sufferers and their families is even more pronounced. Not only have the effects of their injuries complicated their ability to adapt, but there has also been reduced input from social services because of social distancing and lockdown restrictions.
The principal findings of the survey were:
- 57% of those sustain brain injury within the last two years reported a negative impact on their rehabilitation
- 50% reported lost access to vital support, both rehab services and contact with family and friends
- Two thirds reported a negative impact on their psychological health
- 37% reported a deterioration in relationships with friends and family
- 70% of partners reported increased stress.
Relationships under increased pressure
It is particularly concerning that relationships, which may have already been under considerable strain pre –lockdown, are currently being placed under increased pressure. As we all know, family support tends not only to supplement rehabilitation and carer input, but also be the link that prevents a brain injury sufferer from becoming entirely reliant on others, notably social services and rehab organisations.
Access to rehabilitation services restricted
Of equal, if not greater, concern is the lost access to rehabilitation services and that ‘in person’ rehabilitation is likely to be restricted for some time if, as predicted, lockdown restrictions are only gradually eased.
Rehabilitation of brain injury patients is at its most crucial and effective within the first two years of the injury to help regain a level of independence, cognitive and motor skills. Without access to this support, treatment outcomes for patients will be less than positive and from a claims perspective will make them more expensive to settle.
Many specialist rehab support services are commissioned by local authorities but councils are struggling with the financial impact of the pandemic with 148 predicting a budget shortfall this year, according to a BBC survey. In addition, a recent report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said that only 4% of Directors of Adult Social Care were confident that their 2020/21 budgets are sufficient to meet their statutory duties .
Both ADASS and Headway are calling for a two year ring-fenced settlement for local authorities to fund adult social care services. This would finance brain injury support upon which sufferers and their families rely, and also meet their increased need caused by COVID-19 and lockdown. Although desirable, this may be wishful thinking given the demands on public finances from all quarters.
Insurers can be forgiven for feeling that the rehabilitation they fund for brain injury sufferers often exceeds what statutory regulations may require for non –accident related sufferers. However, it is in everybody’s interests that the best possible support be available for these claimants as this has a direct bearing on the outcome of their claims. Insurers should expect to see case managers increasingly reporting that statutory services are unable to meet individual rehabilitative requirements due to the impact of COVID and therefore a wraparound commercial package is the only way to ensure the right support is provided to those who need it most.