Branch Secretary :

Unite: Social care workers must be provided with full protection

Workers need full protective equipment


Unite reps in homelessness agencies have been pressing for decent safety standards, leave for self-isolating staff not to trigger absence procedures, and support for self employed locum staff who may fall ill.  We have made mixed progress with some employers engaging positively and others adopting a much less helpful approach.


Nationally, Unite which represents thousands of members in social care is warning that the sector is at breaking point and workers do not even have basic personal protective equipment (PPE).


Breaking point


Social care workers, many of whom are employed on low wages by private sector companies and who look after some of the frailest and most vulnerable in society, are reporting that employers are unable to supply basic PPE such as gloves, aprons, masks and hand sanitizer.


The sector is highly fragmented with 1,200 different organisations and companies providing home care assistance in England alone.


Workers fearful


A Unite member who wished to remain anonymous spoke for the sector when he said: “I have worked in social care for 30 years and like many of my colleagues we are fearful of what may happen in the coming days, weeks and months. 


“The crisis created by the coronavirus has highlighted more than ever the need for a national care service making social care universally available to all.


 “Many social care workers will be under enormous pressure to come on shift and do extra hours. Many will have to make the difficult choice between feeding their families or self isolating with no pay and the £94.00 Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). 


 “The social care sector was already at breaking point only state intervention at an unprecedented scale can provide the support for the vulnerable in our society at this time of national crisis.”


PPE delay


The government yesterday (Sunday 22 March) promised that the social care sector would have adequate PPE in a week but that was seen as too little too late.


Social care workers, operating in residential centres and in people’s homes are becoming increasingly concerned that the lack of adequate PPE is placing the health of their clients and themselves at risk.


Fourth emergency service


Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “The social care sector is the fourth emergency service and it is crucial in helping the most vulnerable in society survive the coronavirus crisis.


 “With workers reporting they are already at breaking point the government has to intervene to ensure that there is joined up thinking and those who need care continue to receive it safely.


 “Given the critical role social care workers are playing it is absolutely essential that they are fully protected.


 “Public Health England and the government need to intervene immediately to make sure, that essential PPE is supplied to the workers who must have it to do their jobs safely and protect the vulnerable who rely on their services.”


March 23 2020



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