Ministers must end jab compulsion to prevent care home catastrophe

Action needed immediately to stop staffing crisis

The government must immediately repeal ‘no jab, no job’ laws for care home staff in England to avert a staffing crisis that threatens to overwhelm the sector, says UNISON today (Saturday).

The controversial mandatory vaccination rule is pushing thousands to the brink of quitting care work and ministers are “sleepwalking into a disaster” by failing to act, says UNISON, the largest union in social care.

Care home staff have until September 16 to get their first vaccination or face the sack. Despite this fast-approaching deadline, there is no sign the government has a realistic plan to deal with the fall-out from its draconian policy, says UNISON.

An exodus has already begun of workers who are hesitant about the jab, or feel they are being bullied into it. UNISON is receiving concerning reports of care homes struggling to meet levels of staffing that comply with safety requirements set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Staff have contacted UNISON to say they are heartbroken to have to leave the jobs they love. However, many feel totally undervalued and bullying is the last straw for them.

The government’s own calculations* estimate that mandatory vaccination could result in up to 70,000 care workers leaving their roles in a sector which already had huge vacancy levels of more than 110,000**.

Mandatory vaccination has been a massive distraction from the core job of care, says UNISON. It has also diverted time and resources from employers and government when they should have been seeking to boost trust and confidence in the vaccine.

UNISON is also calling for an urgent cash injection to boost pay to at least the real living wage rate of £9.50 an hour (£10.85 in London), and attract recruits to what are crucial and skilled roles.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic. But coercing and bullying people can never be the right approach.

“Ministers have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail. But they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring.

“The government is sleepwalking into this disaster by not acting. Care is already a broken and underfunded sector that cannot afford to lose any more staff.

“The government must scrap the ‘no jab, no job’ rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings. This would be disastrous for elderly people and those who cannot live without care support.”

Notes to editors: 
–* Click here for the full impact assessment published in July by the Department for Health and Social Care, and ** here for data on the state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England.
– New regulations came into force on 22 July making Covid vaccination compulsory for those working in and attending care homes from 11 November 2021. The lastest possible date for a first jab is September 16 in order for them to have received both their doses by 11 November.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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