Forcing care home workers to be vaccinated could cause staff shortages so bad that entire homes will be forced to close, it has been warned.
Unions have called ‘no jab, no job’ policy – which comes into effect on November 11 – a ‘massive distraction.’
The Government is insisting any carer who has not been inoculated will not be able to look after the elderly and the disabled.
This is because care staff interact with those most vulnerable to coronavirus, who risk being hospitalised or dying from the disease.
But ministers have been warned they are ‘sleepwalking’ into a disaster as the industry already had shortages estimated at around 120,000 before the pandemic.
Public service trade union Unison has called the vaccine policy a ‘massive distraction’ from what the care sector really needs.
General secretary Christina McAnea said: ‘Vaccination remains the way out of the pandemic, but coercing and bullying people can never be the right approach.
‘Ministers have been told repeatedly that using force instead of persuasion will fail, but they’ve not listened and now their ill-considered policy is backfiring.
‘The Government is sleepwalking into this disaster by not acting. Care is already a broken and underfunded sector that cannot afford to lose any more staff.
‘The Government must scrap the “no jab, no job” rule now. Widespread care home closures could be the consequence if they ignore the warnings.
‘This would be disastrous for elderly people and those who cannot live without care support.’
The Government’s worst-case scenario predictions forecast losing about 68,000 carers after the November deadline. But the National Care Association has said it predicts 170,000 carers in England will leave because of the policy.
It comes after three-quarters of care homes reported an increase in staff quitting since April.
The vaccine mandate has been cited as a reason, along with demands for higher pay and less stress.
There is a labour shortage in the UK in general – caused by the pandemic and Brexit.
Similarly, supermarkets have warned about food shortages in the UK over Christmas time because of a lack of lorry drivers.
On top of the labour issue, the care sector has been asking for more investment for a long time.
A care home manager told The Guardian one of her evening housekeepers on £9.30 an hour left the job ‘she loves’ for a job at Amazon which offered her £13.50 an hour.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the social care workforce and are working with local authorities and providers to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands.
‘The vast majority of care staff are already vaccinated and we are focusing on encouraging even more staff to get jabbed to protect their colleagues and those they care for.
‘Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk for vulnerable people in care homes.’
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