Hello everyone! We hope you are all keeping safe and well.
Social Care and the Vaccine
Yesterday saw the first vaccines being provided as part of a wider roll out of the immunisation programme, these are clearly early days but we are pleased to see that care workers will be amongst the first to receive the vaccine. Unison has set out it’s priorities for social care as we move forward, these are:
1) Informed choice and avoiding a punitive approach from employers
UNISON’s top priority is to ensure safety in the workplaces of our members working in social care. This thoroughly tested and independently verified vaccine, delivered by the NHS, is a means to making social care workplaces safer.
UNISON has strongly advocated for care and health staff to be given priority access to the vaccination. However, as with the flu vaccination, care workers should not be forced to receive the COVID-19 immunisation. We want to ensure that employers make the vaccine easily accessible to all staff who are eligible and provide them with the full information they need to make an informed decision.
Getting vaccinated must not be made a condition of employment or access to public services and that staff should be given paid time-off to get vaccinated. The government has also indicated that they do not wish to see individuals forced to take the vaccine. Wirral Unison expects that there will be no negative implications for staff who refuse the vaccine, nor should immunisation influence decisions made about terms and conditions such as redeployment, shielding, or pay.
We would encourage all our members to be cautious in relation to the information they consume and share regarding vaccinations. Trusted and authoritative sources of information such as the NHS and UNISON are a good place to begin for those seeking more information.
2) Paid time for travelling to and from vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine
Some employers in the social care sector will behave responsibly and do all they can to facilitate access to the vaccine for eligible care staff. Sadly, we can predict that some will not.
Eligibility for and receiving the vaccine is a direct result of employment and therefore time spent travelling to the place where the vaccine is delivered and receiving the vaccine should be paid at the normal rate. These are the arrangements which will be applied for all NHS staff and social care staff should not be treated differently. Employers who fail to do this are creating a disincentive for workers to be vaccinated. As the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is likely to be delivered at mass vaccination sites away from workplaces, it is particularly important that this time is paid at the normal hourly rate.
UNISON has repeatedly sought assurances from the Department of Health and Social Care that employers will be told to offer paid time off for travelling to vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine. We have also asked that travel expenses are covered. At the time of writing, we have yet to receive clarification on this point. We will be raising this with Wirral Council
3) Safety and protection of the vaccine
The roll out of all Covid-19 vaccinations are subject to approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This process and the safeguards involved are described here. The Agency has given cast-iron reassurances that the safety, quality and efficacy of any vaccine has been thoroughly scientifically assessed.
UNISON has insisted that the same rigour is applied in the roll out of the vaccine. As a result, those administering the vaccine must be trained and certified as competent and robust procedures for the supply and safe storage of the vaccination must be in place.
4) Ownership and partnership working
UNISON has demanded that lessons are learned from the disastrous involvement of private companies in Test and Trace so that management of the vaccination programme is kept entirely within the public sector. We have been reassured the management of the vaccination for health and care workers will be handled in this way.
5) Continued need for caution
It is important to note that the Covid-19 vaccine does not remove the need for continued public health measures to tackle the virus for everyone involved in delivering social care. Social distancing (where possible) and wearing the right PPE continue to be vitally important.
Wirral Unison will be liaising with social care providers and commissioners to ensure the points we make above are addressed. If any of our members in Social Care have any concerns about the above points and the implementation of the vaccine, please do get in touch
We have highlighted over a number of months now, the situation for people who are shielding; the physical, mental and financial toll has in many cases been significant. Whilst some employers have been understanding and progressive in their attitudes, for too many of our members it has been a battle to get appropriate levels of support. Wirral has in many cases been successful in representing on behalf of members, but I the interim too much anxiety has been caused.
The latest research has highlighted the disproportionate impact upon different areas of the country. The North West has the highest proportion of residents who fall within the shielding category, with 4.8% of people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable in our region compared to as low as 3.5% in other regions. Our neighbouring council, Liverpool had the highest proportion of shielders with 9.3%, that is nearly a tenth of the population identified as being at high risk of complications from Corona Virus. In contrast in Oxford only 2.5% of residents were being asked to shield. This level of need highlights some underlying social issues that require long term focused attention and investment in order to mitigate some of the impacts of 10 years of austerity. Since 2010 Liverpool has seen an £816 per person cut in public spending whilst in Oxford they saw an increase of £115 per person.
But areas such as our own also crucially need more immediate financial support to address the issues that have arisen in recent months as a result of the pandemic. Many of us have known for some time now that this virus does discriminate and increasingly research has backed up this impact this is having. Wirral Unison will continue to campaign both to support members individually but to press for a fairer allocation of resources so that the most vulnerable members receive the support they require.
Public Sector Pay
A couple of weeks ago we reported that the councillor Rishi Sunak had announced another public sector pay freeze as he seeks to make public sector workers pay for the cost of Covid. In a matter of months government ministers have gone from standing on their door steps and clapping public sector workers, in what at the time we said was a hollow gesture, to turning their backs on the many workers who have continued to provide essential services throughout this crisis.
Wirral Unison is clear in our opposition to this pay freeze and we are pleased that Wirral Council, last night passed a motion slamming this decision. Labour councillors quite rightly noted that this pay freeze is a political choice and not an economic choice. We welcome this support from Wirral Council and we will be happy to work with the council to ensure that our members do not pay the cost of this crisis.
Of course the financial impact in our members goes beyond a pay freeze, as objectionable and unfair as this is, with many of our members not only facing a 5% increase in their council tax but in effect being forced (by virtue of government guidance) to work from home, whilst being face with soaring gas and electricity bills. Employers can pay a tax free allowance to cover the cost of working from home (up to £26 per month) and we would urge the council to lead by example by implementing this, which will help many members who are struggling with the cost of this crisis.
That’s all for today everyone, we hope you continue to find our regular email updates of use.
As always, please do pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON
We’ll be back in touch with further updates soon.
Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085
Published on: December 10, 2020