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Homecare Association response to potential mandatory vaccination U-turn

by Lisa Carr

The Homecare Association has always strongly supported vaccination against COVID-19. It is clear that vaccination helps to protect against serious illness and death, even from newer variants of COVID-19. We will continue to work closely with colleagues in NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and local authorities to encourage uptake of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters among the homecare workforce, as we have done from the outset.

Our advice all along has been that the risk of losing vital homecare staff far outweighs the mitigated risk of infection from COVID-19, particularly as death rates from COVID-19 of people receiving homecare are low and regular asymptomatic testing and PPE are freely available and universally used. We opposed the regulations requiring vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD) in homecare as we believe that persuasion is more likely to be successful than compulsion for increasing vaccine uptake among those with genuine concerns.

We are therefore pleased that the government has initiated a consultation on a proposal to revoke the VCOD regulations. We need immediate clarity, however, about the short-term implications given that the deadline for the first dose of vaccine is this Thursday 3 February 2022 and employers are poised to start dismissal procedures with unvaccinated staff. Indeed, some employers have already initiated dismissal processes where employees have notice periods of 3 months, which is more common for live-in care.

Many people receiving care have experienced substantial worry about losing staff with whom they have built valuable relationships. And dedicated careworkers have feared for their jobs, which they love, some after many years of service.

Sector specialists of all types are frequently consulted and frequently ignored by the government, which creates unnecessary risk, as policy change is driven by those without relevant knowledge or experience. We call on the government to listen to and act on evidence provided by experts, including those receiving care, on all areas of social care policy, so we can work together to deliver the aspiration to put people at the heart of care.

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