The Care Workers’ Charity Responds to Government Announcement on Compulsory Vaccinations in Health and Wider Social Care Settings.
We are disappointed in today’s announcement which will make vaccination a condition of deployment in health and wider social care settings which will impact not only healthcare staff, but also former social care workers who were forced to leave the sector to move to the NHS, where they hoped they could avoid the impact of this arbitrary legislation.
Moreover, those who moved from care home settings to home care will now have to leave the sector altogether- as they are forced out of their roles once the policy (now covering all CQC registered settings) comes into effect in April 2022. Those in social care know from experience the devastating impact this will have.
Despite the deadline for care home workers to have received both COVID vaccinations having not yet been reached (this is Thursday 11th), its impact was felt almost immediately, as care workers chose to leave the sector before they were pushed out of their roles. For many, after a traumatic and exhausting 18 months- the enforcement by the Government of this legislation was the final straw, and has left care staff feeling that their views and concerns have not being respected or heard. It has also meant providers are left desperately trying to fill gaps in their rotas, with fewer and fewer people to fill them. There is no doubt that homecare and wider care settings, as well as the NHS will experience the same devastating workforce shortages once this extension of the current damaging policy is introduced.
For the social care sector, the enforcement of vaccination legislation represented yet another piece of ill thought out policy, introduced to the detriment of the sector, its workforce, and all those who draw on social care provision. The policy’s impact is working in combination with the current immigration policy to discourage and frustrate retention and recruitment into the sector- as social care providers have lost a huge potential pool of workers from the EU.
Prior to the EUSS deadline, over 12% of our care workers came from the EU (UK total). This loss of capacity has been (and will continue to be) devastating for the sector- with the report showing a sharp drop in the number of people arriving in the UK to take up adult social are jobs (1.8% of new starters in January-April 2021 compared to 5.2% during the same period in 2019). We remain frustrated that social care is still designated as a ‘low skill’ role on the Government immigration list, further discouraging recruits from the EU, and the UK from joining the sector, as well as devaluing its skilled workforce. We once again call on the Government to change this policy to ensure care providers can properly (and safely) staff their services.
The latest Skills for Care report found that an average of 105,000 vacancies were being advertised on an average day in 2020/21, and estimated a turnover rate of 28.5% (equating to 410,000 people). The Government itself has estimated that “between 17,000- 70,000 staff were expected to not take up the [vaccination] policy” (quoted in Skills for Care 2021)- yet appears to not recognise the impact of losing such a huge number of staff on an already shrinking workforce. Indeed, it’s recently published Adult Social Care Winter Plan claims that vaccination as a condition of deployment will “help address reductions in capacity” due to the avoidance of staff becoming ill- which serves to demonstrate how out of touch the Government are with the reality of frontline care provision and the crisis faced by the social care sector.
It is a perfect storm of challenges that can, and must be addressed, by the Government. The latest ONS figures show the number of job vacancies in the UK has risen to over 1 million (for the first time since records began) (September 2021). In such a competitive labour market, sectors must have incentives (for e.g. decent pay, reward, recognition, respect) to attract recruits. The data showing the pay differentiation between social care and other sectors (hospitality, healthcare, retail for e.g.) illustrates the very real challenge we face without proper reform to pay structures and training provision, as well as a recognition of a career in social care as both valuable and professional. Until this is realised, we will continue to struggle as those in social care leave the sector.
The extent of the current crisis in social care cannot be understated. Workforce shortages caused by the poor leadership and devastating policy enforced by this Government will mean we risk the loss of life, if those drawing on social care cannot receive the high quality care they need and deserve.
As a charity we encourage people to get vaccinated but we believe everyone should have the right to choose. We call on the Government to urgently look into recalling this legislation, and addressing the multitude of devastating factors which are in their power to change.
Author: Karolina Gerlich, CEO of The Care Workers’ Charity