Published 5 June 2020
Social Workers have been identified as key workers during the COVID 19 crisis and continue to carry out essential work protecting the rights and safety of those that are most vulnerable. Whilst all risks to social workers cannot be completely eliminated during these difficult times, it is essential that employers take all possible steps that they can to minimise the risks to all social workers carrying out their duties. Employers must remember that they have a duty of care towards their employees to ensure that they provide a safe place of work.
This flow chart is devised to assist managers and staff to identify what risk assessments need to be carried out for their individual staff and what measures should be put in place to minimise risk.
Clinically Vulnerable and Extremely Clinically Vulnerable Staff
The government has identified a number of key groups who are at increased risk in relation to COVID 19.Those identified as extremely clinically vulnerable must follow guidance on shielding, which is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19. Those who are classed as clinically vulnerable are advised to stay home as much as possible, as highlighted in the government guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing.
There is emerging evidence that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups are clearly at increased risk of complications and death from COVID 19, and for this reason, BASW and SWU are clear that it is essential that these staff members have personalised risk assessments that can take account of any ethnicity-related risk factors, similar to the risk assessment for the clinically vulnerable group for the purposes of minimising risk.
Staff may have other individual situations that need to be considered by the employer such as disability, pregnancy and religious needs. There are also contextual factors, such as home environment, overcrowding, multi-generation households, caring responsibilities and reliance on public transport. For example, people living with or caring for someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable may have concerns about passing on the virus and as carers may have the right to ensure they are particularly protected from the risk of taking infection home. Parents with young children may be struggling to fit in their duties around childcare. People may have concerns about using public transport to get to work and options to use transport as less busy times may be appropriate.
These issues should be discussed with staff individually and ways of supporting these staff and managing these issues should be explored and agreed.
BASW and SWU recommend that employers devise a corporate COVID 19 risk assessment that is published and is agreed and signed off by the Union Health and Safety Rep. Staff in the clinically vulnerable group should be individually risk assessed in order to devise a strategy to eliminate all avoidable risk and minimise the unavoidable risks to this group as much as possible. Actions taken to avoid and minimise risk include working at home as much as possible and providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment. Face to face visits by all social workers should be risk assessed and only carried out if essential, in order to minimise the risk of spread of infection to both the staff member and the public. BASW has devised a face-to-face checklist that can be found here: https://www.basw.co.uk/resources/face-face-visit-checklist-during-covid-19