Social care charities warn that the government’s mandatory vaccination policy could cause a staff shortage, with one charity claiming it “could cause the social care sector to collapse” altogether.
Social care staff in England must have been double vaccinated by last Thursday if they are to continue working in the role. With the social care sector advertising approximately 105,000 vacancies per day during 2020-21, the workforce is understaffed while demand increases.
Across the UK, it is estimated that 1.48 million people currently work in social care. However, according to an NHS webpage, “the sector needs at least another half a million jobs, and people to do them, by 2030”.
A study by the Independent revealed that 75,000 social care workers are unvaccinated. The government expects 5% of the total workforce to receive a vaccine in response to the mandate but anticipates 38,000 will remain unvaccinated. Under this policy, they will have to leave the profession because of it.
Social care charities have voiced fears that the vaccination policy will trigger more staff to leave the already depleted workforce.
‘Extremely concerned’ by the policy
Kari Gerstheimer, chief executive of Access Social Care, said: “We are extremely concerned about what compulsory vaccinations will do to a workforce that is already so depleted. Staff shortages have been going on for years, but recently the situation has become acute. If, as some papers are reporting, the care sector loses over 50,000 workers, the system will be in serious danger of collapse this winter.”
Karolina Gerlich, chief executive of Care Worker’s Charity, also fears for the future of the social care sector because of the policy. She said: “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.
“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.”
‘The social care sector will be on its knees within months’
Revitalise, a charity that supports disabled people and carers through respite breaks, called on the government to push back the mandatory vaccination deadline to April 2022.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Revitalise urged the government to “push the vaccine mandate back” and if this advice was left unheeded that “the social care sector will be on its knees within months”.
Tregelles said: “Once again social care has been treated like the poor relative of the NHS by the government and pleas from the sector for urgent reform have been ignored. Hancock admitted on Monday that mandatory vaccines for NHS staff would spell disaster for a sector already under immeasurable staffing pressure, but had no qualms enforcing the mandate for social care today, who are under as much duress. Revitalise has today lost 5% of our workforce due to mandatory vaccination requirements, which has compounded ongoing recruitment difficulties.”
Trade unions stand with charities
Unison and National Care Forum wrote jointly to secretary of state for health and social care Savid Javid last month calling for action against the care sector’s staffing crisis.
Unison has joined non-profit organisation NCF again in its response to the compulsory vaccination policy. Gavin Edwards, Unison’s officer for care, asked for the vaccination deadline to be delayed in accordance with the staffing shortage.
He said: “Jab rates were steadily rising and although the threat of being sacked will have persuaded some staff, it's also prompted many others to leave.
“Ministers should pause the jab deadline until at least the spring, to allow even more to get their jabs. Or better still scrap it altogether.”
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, expressed a similar view to her fellow trade union association. Though GMB has promoted the vaccine, she felt the compulsory vaccination policy was “heavy-handed” and will only exacerbate staffing issues.
Harrison outlined that a survey conducted by GMB across social care, ambulance and the NHS staff showed almost 60% do not support the mandate.
Care workers resign
A recent National Care Forum (NCF) survey found that 5% of the social care staff that responded had already been dismissed or resigned from working in care following the compulsory vaccination policy.
NCF is a not-for-profit organisation that represents over 130 member organisations and charities, including Age UK, St John’s Foundation and Care Worker’s Charity.
Former care worker Charley Ann Walker told LaingBuisson that she lost her job in care because of the new mandate.
She told the publication: “I really didn’t want the vaccine and I really didn’t want to lose my job, but I had no choice.”