Government fails on PPE in social care

The government is advising on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through Public Health England (PHE). Currently their advise for carers working in the community can be found here:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878750/T2_poster_Recommended_PPE_for_primary__outpatient__community_and_social_care_by_setting.pdf
All the government advise on PPE is here
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe
P
HE’s latest advise says that anyone working with vulnerable clients/ patients/ residents, (ie those over 70 or with underlying health conditions) where it is not possible to maintain social distance of 2m should wear level 2 PPE. This is a surgical mask, goggles or a visor ( where moisture droplets may be present, ie any personalised care), an apron and gloves. This is the case whether the person has symptoms of Covid 19 or not.This PPE is single session use. In no circumstances should it be washed or steamed to use again. Surgical masks should be worn only until they become damp from wearing and, as long as they are put on and taken off safely, in home care should not be used for multiple visits. PPE should be put on and taken off according to guidance, which you should be trained in. Information on this can be found here:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878677/PHE_11606_Putting_on_PPE_062_revised_8_April.pdf
And here
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878678/PHE_11606_Taking_off_PPE_064_revised_8_April.pdf
The problem with PHE guidance is that it is partly based on availability, not just on what protects workers most effectively. It is obvious that the planning for provision of PPE across the health and care sector by the government has been completely inadequate. The possibility of a pandemic was predicted clearly for years. PPE should have been stockpiled for when it was needed.  Instead we have seen inadequate supplies and chaotic distribution. The care sector has been completely neglected.
Many community organisations have been producing PPE, for example see https://www.facebook.com/1564445477106014/posts/2519516614932224/

Nobody can be surprised that workers are gladly accepting these offers of support from their communities. It is a scandal that this has had to happen and workers have had to rely on community produced safety equipment that are in many cases not fully health and safety checked.
When it became obvious that supplies were in adequate the government should have taken over factories and businesses capable of producing PPE, for example from the clothes retail sector and put them to socially useful manufacture. Even now we demand the government does this to vastly increase supply. 

Social Care: for full public ownership (updated)

In the week up to 10 April, according to the Office of National Statistics, 1,043 care home residents died as a result of Covid-19 – leaping from 217 the week before. Then over the Easter weekend (11-15 April), according to the Care Quality Commission, that may have doubled again to about 2,000.

Before those figures, Care England, which represents care homes across the country, estimated that around 7,500 residents had died from the virus – five times the government’s 1,400 figure and adding to the total (official) number of deaths by almost half. National Records of Scotland has suggested that a third of deaths there have been in care homes.

There are many care homes where dozens of people have died, some where the dead constitute a significant minority of residents and, in a few cases, a majority.

Problems with availability of and access to Personal Protective Equipment and testing for workers are well-known. And there is increasing concern and anger about the perhaps equally important issue of sick pay and the right to self-isolate. Something like half a million care workers get only Statutory Sick Pay of £95.85 a week – or not even that, if they earn less than £120 a week or are nominally self-employed.

At the government’s daily briefing on 16 April, Business Secretary Alok Sharma repeatedly refused to even answer a question about this, attempting to fob it off by uttering the word “Heroes” over and over (see the video put up by Safe and Equal, which campaigns for the right of workers to self-isolate on full pay, at bit.ly/aloksharmvideotw).

In these circumstances, many workers are under enormous financial pressure to continue working even when they or someone in their household has symptoms. Some care workers have turned to food banks in their determination to self-isolate.

This factor alone makes it little wonder that Covid-19 is spreading like wildfire in care homes. This horrible situation and the Tories’ determination to avoid any significant action to change it are severely exacerbating the threats to very large numbers of care workers, even larger numbers of those they care for, and the general public.

Read full article here: https://www.workersliberty.org/story/2020-04-19/social-care-crisis-fight-public-ownership

Safe and Equal

Facebook: https://bit.ly/aloksharmavideofb

Twitter: https://bit.ly/aloksharmavideotw

The Safe & Equal campaign for the right of all workers to self-isolate on full pay is pressuring the govt over their shameful refusal to deal with the fact many care workers only get statutory sick pay – which Alok Sharma refused to answer at yesterday’s briefing. Please watch, share, retweet, get involved.

Salford City UNISON win full isolation pay and more for all care workers!

All Salford care providers (including residential care homes) have been written to by the NHS and the Council with the following information:

  • All providers will be expected to ensure staff who are absent as a result of Government guidance will be paid full pay for the first 14 days, and then at 80% for a maximum total of 12 weeks period of absence. Providers are able to claim back the difference between what they would normally pay and what they are required to pay, from the NHS.
  • Payments should be made on the basis of typical hours worked, rather than basic contractual hours – as the provision is to cover commissioned work in its totality.

See full statement and conditions here: https://salfordcityunison.org.uk/2020/04/03/member-update-2nd-april-2020-social-care-breakthrough/

“Critical lack” of PPE and testing has allowed coronavirus to sweep through the care sector – unions warn

Social care providers and unions have today (Thursday) warned that a “critical lack” of protective equipment and testing has allowed coronavirus to “sweep through” social care.   

In a joint statement – signed by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, UNISON, Unite, GMB and TUC – ministers are told that care workers and residents are still being exposed to unnecessary risk.     

See link

https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/critical-lack-ppe-and-testing-has-allowed-coronavirus-sweep-through-care-sector-adass-and

Six demands for home & social care workers

1. Full pay for all self isolation
2. PPE for all staff
3. More uniforms
4. Clear advice and procedures
5. Increased flexibility and leave
6. Right to join a union and have a say

  1. Full pay for all self isolation, including for those with Covid19 symptoms, family with suspected Covid19 or due to underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus according to government advice.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment to be provided to all staff suitable to their role, at least gloves, aprons, face mask and goggles or face mask with visors.
  3. Increased supplies of Uniform and expenses for increased uniform washing.
  4. Clear advice on Covid19 and the procedures for keeping themselves and clients safe. Including on PPE, social distancing and cleaning and on how to care for those with Covid19.
  5. Increased flexibility and special leave provision for staff who are having to deal with additional childcare or family illness during this crisis.
  6. Involvement in decisions on processes and procedures relating to Covid-19. The ability to communicate with fellow workers and the right to be part of a trade union.

Stories from the front line

Anonymous care worker

I am a support worker with adults who have learning and often other disabilities and underlying health issues. I come across support and care workers as part of my job and I have to agree with other blogs, that PPE is very poor and things like face shields, scrubs and higher grade face masks for use with Covid 19 positive patients is virtually non-existent. As far as I’m aware there have so far been no tests for Covid 19 of anyone I know and nothing immediately in the pipe-line according to our local management. People I come across in the job are getting very scared to now due to the lack of PPE and testing and I’ve become aware that Covid 19 is in local care homes and there have already been a number of deaths. I would add that due to the lack of public transport now, front-line NHS and carers should get discounted/free travel and/or taxi’s provided by employers where traveling time to and from work is more than hour.

Anonymous home carer

The PPE that we are given is disposable gloves and apron and hand sanitiser gel. No masks will be provided.  Our Coronavirus pack was laughable if the situation hadn’t been so serious. Employees in this sector that I speak to feel very vulnerable. They are often on 0 hours contracts. I have no idea if they would pay us if we choose to self isolate as the company hasn’t informed us. I know someone with an underlying health condition who is being pressured to work. Even before Covid 19 home carers are under pressure to work when they are unwell because of lack of sick pay and a culture of pressuring employees to work. The company is short staffed most of the time and has a very high turnover of staff which is again common in this industry. My company pays a competitive hourly rate but most people aren’t aware that the carers only get mileage allowance and no payment for travelling to and from calls. They are only paid if they are at a customer’s house. This again increases the financial pressure to work. Even though they knew there was a staff shortage and that they would struggle to cover calls as the outbreak began to become more serious they still added additional care users to the company.


Anonymous Paramedic

I’ve noticed when going into patients homes that their home carers are not wearing adequate PPE. The carers are going from one vulnerable adult to another and then going home to their own families. The ones I’ve spoken to have not been given proper PPE and not been told what happens if they self isolate. It’s not fair on them or their patients. These homes are my workplace too so it’s putting other workers at risk. We all need to support home carers, they are right in the frontline with us. Their work isn’t valued nearly highly enough.

Join a Union!

Speak to your work mates, network on social media, organise together, join a trade union! This is the best way to get organised to support each other and get information and advice on representation and support. As workers organised in a trade union you can challenge your employer to get what you need to do your job and protect yourself. 

The main unions in the care sector are Unison, GMB and Unite linked below. If some workers in your workplace or in your area are already members of one of these it makes sense to join the same one. If no one is join one and encourage others to join the same union. Get in touch with us if you need advice

https://join.unison.org.uk/

https://www.gmb.org.uk/join-gmb

https://join.unitetheunion.org/

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union

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