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Government consultation on staff COVID-19 vaccines in care homes: Summary of BASW England survey responses

Last month BASW England surveyed its members on the key questions taken from the government’s public survey, with a focus on those that were of most relevance to social workers

Last month the government launched a 5-week consultation setting out its proposals to amend regulations, requiring older adult care home providers to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination in line with government guidance.

BASW England surveyed its members on the key questions taken from the government’s public survey with a focus on those that were of most relevance to social workers. This enabled us to obtain the views of our members about this policy which also asks respondents to consider whether this should be extended to include other professionals who visit care homes, including social workers.

We would like to thank the 49 respondents for taking the time to complete the survey and we are happy to share some analysis on the responses below.

Key findings

How do you feel about the proposed requirement for workers in older adult care homes to have a COVID-19 vaccination?

As with many of the questions, this produced a mixed response. However, slightly over half of members said they were either “slightly unsupportive” or “not supportive” (net 51% unsupportive) versus 45% of members who answered either “supportive” or “rather supportive”.

The proposed regulations would apply to any care home which has at least one person over the age of 65 living in their home in England and which is registered with the Care Quality Commission. This is estimated to be approximately 10,000 care homes. Do you agree with using this definition to determine which care homes this regulation would apply to?

53% of members answered No to this question, although it was clear that there was still no major consensus around this.

Do you have any concerns about the proposal to limit this policy to older adult care homes?

This question produced a more decisive result with two thirds (67%) of respondents answering Yes.

The next questions focused on the scope of the policy.

Which people working or visiting in an older adult care home should be covered by the scope of the policy?

  • Only paid staff deployed in the care home
    • Yes 14%
    • No 71%
    • No opinion 14%
  • Staff working for the care home provider who work in a separate building but may visit the care home occasionally (for example staff working in an off-site office)
    • Yes 41%
    • No 47%
    • No opinion 12%
  • Health professionals who visit the care home regularly and provide close personal care to people living in the care home
    • Yes 49%
    • No 47%
    • No opinion 4%
  • Other professionals who provide close personal care to people living in the care home, for example, hairdressers
    • Yes 47%
    • No 47%
    • No opinion 6%
  • All professionals who enter a care home regardless of their role, for example, electrician, plumber, art therapist, music therapist
    • Yes 37%
    • No 55%*
    • No opinion 8%
  • Friends or family members designated as ‘essential carers’ who visit regularly and provide close personal care
    • Yes 45%
    • No 47%
    • No opinion 8%
  • All friends and family who may visit
    • Yes 39%
    • No 51%
    • No opinion 8%
  • Volunteers
    • Yes 49%
    • No 45%
    • No opinion 6%

*This response of 55% is interesting as this is where social workers would fall into the scope of the policy. There is a majority view in this case.

The next part of the survey focused on how the policy may impact certain groups, be it those with protected characteristics as well as how the policy might affect the ability for older adult care homes to maintain a safe service.

59% felt that those with protected characteristics would be negatively impacted by the policy, with most other respondents opting to state they were unsure (27%) with just a handful stating No or that the question was not applicable.

There did appear to be some consensus around whether the policy would affect the ability for care homes to maintain a safe service with 63% agreeing that it would. When asked for specific examples of this, the most popular responses were:

  • The risk of staff leaving their jobs due to a refusal to take the vaccine (43%)
  • The risk of staff leaving in protest due to the policy conflicting with their beliefs (22%)

Do you think this new policy could cause any conflict with other statutory requirements that care homes must meet?

Interestingly, of those who provided a definitive Yes or No response, there was over a 2:1 view in favour of Yes with 55%.

Conclusion

BASW England will closely follow the Government’s plans around the implementation of such a policy and report back to our members when it is clear what the implications would be for social workers, as well as on social work in care home settings more broadly.

We will also make sure we share the outcome from the Government’s own consultation on this. We will outline any key next steps where we believe BASW England may wish to feed in - and how you, as members, can ensure your voice is heard.