Care Workers vs COVID-19

Care Workers vs COVID-19

Coronavirus poses a serious threat to all of us. As care workers, we are at the forefront of the struggle against the virus. We put ourselves at risk to provide direct care and support to high risk groups including the over-70s and people with underlying health conditions.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will go above and beyond to protect your families and loved ones. We need all necessary support, training, equipment and resources to allow us to give critical care, prevent the spread of disease and protect our communities.

The Government have made some commitments, but they do not adequately address concerns about resources and support getting to frontline staff and public services. Many of us on low wages cannot get access to statutory sick pay, and some private social care companies are ignoring the Government’s advice to pay staff if they have to self isolate, which could put lives at risk.

More far-reaching intervention and enforcement is required to protect the workforce and allow us to deliver vital care.  It is absolutely essential that care workers have necessary equipment to protect patients and are able to self-isolate or take time off work if we become ill. The threat of losing pay means that many of us may have to choose between feeding our children, defaulting on rent payments or attending work whilst ill. 

Support us to Stop the Spread

As care workers, we are calling for urgent action now to protect vital care workers, the elderly and those most at risk to the spread of COVID-19. That's why we are calling on our employers, local councils and other commissioners of social care to:

  1. Protect Our Health – Priority testing for care workers to limit the spread of disease to vulnerable patients and service users. Guarantee all essential training and personal protection equipment (PPE) to all frontline workers (e.g. goggles, masks, hand sanitisers, thermometers) in line with Public Health England guidance.

  2. Protect Our Pay – Full normal pay for all those required by government guidance to self-isolate or who become ill because of COVID-19, in order to prevent unnecessary spread of infection. This includes all staff on zero-hour contracts, bank/relief contracts or multiple contracts.

  3. Protect Our Employment – Ensure no-one is dismissed or laid-off for staying at home to care for themselves or their family. Absence due to COVID-19 should be excluded from absence management triggers.

  4. Protect Our Families – Carers leave on full-pay for workers caring for a dependent who has COVID-19 or for whom childcare is unavailable.


The demands above are based on necessary and deliverable local actions. All demands should apply to contractors, sub-contractors and providers. Where agreement cannot be reached in this regard, or where contractors do not implement minimum standards, then commissioners should be pressurised to move rapidly towards bringing service provision in-house.


Join Our Campaign!

  1. Join Our Facebook Group - If you are a social care worker based in North West England, please join our Facebook group and and connect with care workers across the North West who are winning improvements on sick pay, PPE and more!

  2. Join UNISON- we're stronger together and through forming workplace unions we can ensure that we have all the resources we need to stop the spread.

  3. Support care workers to stop the spread by signing our petition.

  4. Show your support by printing our campaign pledge card taking a picture to share on social media. Tag us into your post. Care worker pledge card is here, council pledge card is here, supportive organisation pledge card is here and supportive (non-care worker) individual pledge card is here.

  5. Keep up to date with the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Invite your colleagues/friends/family to like and follow our pages.


 

The Next Step

“As care workers, we have been at the forefront of the struggle against COVID-19. We have put ourselves at risk to provide care and support to vulnerable people in our community.

We appreciate the applause from members of the public, but unless social care receives proper investment and respect, we remain under-valued, under-appreciated and under-paid.

To enable us to continue giving exceptional care, we need proper pay and decent conditions that properly reflect our position as key workers. We need action after the applause”

UNISON North West is campaigning for the pay and conditions that care workers deserve – but we need to know what your priorities are.

If you are a social care worker, please complete this survey to help shape your campaign. All information is strictly confidential and will not be shared with your employer.

Who is supporting care workers to stop the spread?

Our campaign has already received significant support from North West politicians.

Sixteen out of twenty three North West councils have now committed to Support Care Workers to Stop the Spread- we call on all other North West councils to follow suit.

Cllr Bev Craig, Exec Member for Adult Services & Health for Manchester City Council

Cllr Gina Reynolds, Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing & Mayor Paul Dennett, Leader of Salford City Council

Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council

Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council.

Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council.

Cllr Brenda Warrington, Leader of Tameside Council

Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council

Cllr Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Borough Council


Meanwhile, several North West MPs have already pledged their support to the campaign:




Paula Barker, MP for Liverpool Wavertree


Navendu Mishra, MP for Stockport

Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey

 

Afzal Khan, MP for Gorton


Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside


Maria Eagle, MP for Garston & Halewood

Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale

Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West and Shadow Minister for Social Care

Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish

Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby

Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston

Charlotte Nichols, MP for Warrington North

Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde

Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston

Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley & Eccles South

Petition

You can support us to stop the spread by signing our petition here: https://action.unison.org.uk/page/58242/petition/1

Please also download the above image and share on social media to show your support. Tag @CareVsCov19 on twitter and Care Workers vs COVID-19 on Facebook.

Survey Results

Thousands of care workers respond to UNISON North West survey and share their horror stories about the reality of working in care during the pandemic

More than 2600 care workers have responded to a UNISON North West survey and shared the shocking truth about the lack of support for care staff during the ongoing public health crisis.

A large majority of the care workers - who work in over 1000 different settings across residential care, home care and learning disability support – said that their employers were not doing enough to keep them and the people they care for safe.

The survey is part of UNISON North West’s recently launched Care Workers Vs COVID-19 campaign, which sets out to ensure that care staff can protect themselves at work and come together to secure the resources they need to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The UNISON survey’s responses have been analysed by the Wellcome Trust research team, which has produced a full report. The key issues facing care workers in the North West are: a severe lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); an inability to self-isolate if necessary due to a lack of sick pay and many other health and safety issues which put both service users and care workers at risk.

The most widespread concern reported by survey respondents across all care-settings was a lack of PPE. One care worker said: “When I enquired 3 weeks ago about extra PPE [the manager] laughed and told me it's not going to be like Italy, and I was scaremongering. Then she was unable to get enough PPE for all staff, despite knowing I have COPD, I wasn't offered any.”

Worryingly, another carer wrote: “We are told we are not allowed to wear PPE due to it scaring the people we support. We are not being able to social distance whilst in work due to the amount of staff [on duty].”

Whilst another care worker stated that: “we have no hand sanitiser and are running out of soap.” 

Another huge issue for care workers who completed the survey was the fear that they would be unable to self-isolate due to COVID-19 as a result of the lack of comprehensive sick pay schemes in the sector, which could put vulnerable staff and service users at risk if unwell carers continued to attend work.

8 out of 10 care workers think they will not be paid their normal wages if they have to self-isolate due to COVID-19. The Wellcome Trust report recommends that UK Government act urgently to ensure that care workers receive their normal wage incomes when in self-isolation.

One North West-based carer summed up the issue: “Staff are at work while ill as they fear losing pay, putting other staff and clients in danger.”

Another care worker explained: ““After being in contact with someone in the home who had COVID-19 and passed away we are not in isolation, management haven’t even contacted me to tell me he had it and passed and they are aware we do not have any protective wear. I also don’t get any sick pay so I should be in isolation but can’t.”

Hundreds of care workers were also concerned about other health and safety issues which make it virtually impossible to follow Government guidance on self-isolation, shielding and social distancing during the pandemic.

One care worker laid the issue out in detail: “We have no policies in place. [There are] more people in the building than normal. So we cant follow the social distancing advice. Been told we still have to come to work even if family members are showing symptoms. We have to come even if we have colds or coughs. Also, the people in the high risk categories that have been told not to work, have to work. [These are] people with asthma and COPD.”

UNISON North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “This survey and accompanying report show how care workers are not being supported to stop the spread of coronavirus. Applause, badges and plaudits mean nothing if care workers are unable to do their jobs without putting their own life- and the lives of their service users- at risk.

“We launched the Care Workers vs COVID-19 campaign to ensure that care workers have the tools to protect our communities and also to protect themselves. Our petition has already exceeded 5000 signatures in a short time. 

“We’re calling on councils across the North West to deliver for care workers in their areas by ensuring that any care worker forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 receives full normal pay. This will protect care workers, their families and those they care for. This can be done- we commend the excellent work by Salford UNISON and Salford Council which guarantees that care workers are able to self-isolate if they need to. We call on all North West councils to make this commitment and to sign the Care Workers vs COVID-19 pledge.”

The Wellcome Trust report’s Principal Investigator Professor Lydia Hayes said: “A tragedy is unfolding across the social care sector. Urgent government action is needed. If we follow the rhetoric about our national “war” on coronavirus, care workers, care home residents and other users of care and support services can be said to be unlawfully set up to take a direct hit. Care workers are lauded as “heroes” while their rights to health, safety and the protection of life are not prioritised.”

Who Cares? Reinventing Adult Social Care: Insourcing and restoring the public good

As part of the Care Workers vs COVID-19 campaign, we have made a significant contribution to the Who Cares? Reinventing Adult Social Care: Insourcing and Restoring the Public Good report. You can read the report by clicking this link.


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