Local councils pay for a big chunk of the social care. In May councils were given a £600 million infection control fund for carehomes. The scheme was extended in October and a further £546 million was made available. Government guidance suggests this money could be used to pay careworkers full sick and isolation pay. But it’s not mandatory and evidence suggests that many social care providers are still refusing to pay full sick and isolation pay despite being offered free money and despite the dangers this poses to staff and service users. It will take grassroots pressure to secure this deal for all careworkers.
Under pressure from trade unions and Safe and Equal activists, a number of councils have ensured that all care workers in their area can self-isolate on full pay. More details here.
What you can do:
The infection control fund for care homes comes with the following guidance: “The infection control fund is intended to help providers pay for additional staff and /or maintain the normal wages of staff who, in order to reduce the spread of infection need to reduce the number of establishments in which they work, reduce the number of hours they work, or self-isolate.” (Paragraph 2.3, Care Homes Support Package, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-care-homes/coronavirus-covid-19-care-home-support-package).
I am writing for assurances that the council will insist that providers commit to paying full sick and isolation pay to their workers, as a condition of receiving these funds. It is estimated that over 400,000 careworkers lack occupational sick pay. If they get Coronavirus symptoms or a member of their household gets symptoms then they would either get £95.85 a week or have to claim Employment Support Allowance. Extreme financial pressure is driving careworkers to work when they might be infectious. In the words of Nadia Whittome MP, “those who are least able to afford to self-isolate are working with those most likely to die of the virus”. A Unison commissioned report by Professor Lydia Hayes concluded that the lack of occupational sick pay in the social care sector is a cause of avoidable deaths (https://media.www.kent.ac.uk/se/11148/CareworkersHealthandSafetyreport15042.pdf).
The Department of Health and Social Care recognised in March that ensuring full sick and isolation pay for outsourced workers working in NHS premises was an essential infection control measure (https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/self-isolation).
However it made no such provision for the social care sector. The infection control fund was introduced in June 2020 and many care providers are refusing to use this money to pay their workers full sick and isolation pay. How many care workers and service users lives might have been saved for want of these basic workers rights?
Salford, Wirral and Liverpool Councils have already committed to ensuring full sick and isolation pay to careworkers following a campaign by Unison. I urge you to make a similar commitment, publicise it widely and work with the local trade unions to ensure the arrangement is properly enforced on the ground.
Lastly, part of the infection control fund can be spent on domicillary care. I urge that these home care workers are also ensured the right to isolate on full pay.
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