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BASW and SWU statements on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination

The statements cover the current context, implications and ethical considerations of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for social workers

BASW and SWU have released statements on the issue of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for social workers.

The statements cover the current context, implications and ethical considerations of compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for health and social care staff, including social workers. 

Martin Sexton, chair of BASW’s Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee, said: “BASW acknowledges the importance of vaccination in managing the spread of Covid and protecting people’s lives. We continue to encourage all our members to receive the vaccine if they are able to do so.

"But BASW is opposed to vaccination being made compulsory.  We accept that this is a complex issue and that some people are in favour of this approach.  But we don’t think it’s a proportionate measure to take at this time.

"Social workers are always very concerned for the welfare of the people they’re trying to support.  So if our members are concerned or unsure about the vaccine then we need to understand their reasons.  Efforts across the country to address such concerns have led to increased levels of vaccination coverage and we think that this work should continue.

"Making vaccination compulsory runs the risk of hardening people’s concerns about it and creating increased opposition to vaccination, now and in the future.  It may also lead to increased numbers of social work vacancies, which will have a negative impact on the services available for people in need. 

"BASW and SWU will continue to offer support to all its members through its Advice and Representation service to ensure that all health-related issues at work (including vaccination) are handled robustly and fairly. 

"We will also continue to advocate for social workers to be able to take other protective measures when they believe that they need to do so.   Vaccination on its own does not prevent Covid infection or transmission.

"Social workers and their colleagues in social care and health have been under tremendous pressure during the epidemic.  We should be supporting and encouraging them not coercing them.”

John McGowan, SWU General Secretary said:  "SWU recognises that there may be a need for staff in a workplace to be vaccinated to protect health and safety. However, these are serious decisions impacting on the workplace personally and professionally. 

"SWU is promoting the uptake of the vaccine when offered but this must be based on individual consent, which has proved effective for engaging staff in the course of action.  SWU believes that mandating vaccines will further marginalise those who are currently vaccine cautious and put further pressure on the workforce.

"Importantly, staff need to be provided with access to clear information about the potential risks and how to overcome or manage those risks, as well as information about the value and benefits of vaccination. There also needs to be confidential support to staff who have any vaccine related concerns and agreed work time off for accepting the vaccinations.

"BASW and SWU will continue to offer support and advice to members through the Advice and Representation Service."