VODG responds to making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment in health and wider social care

9 November 2021

In response to the Health Secretary’s announcement today that regulations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment will now be extended to all health and care workers, Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said:

“As ever, clarity around potentially problematic policy developments, such as this one, is welcome, yet it is evident that concerns being raised about the impact the introduction of these regulations will have on the recruitment and retention of social care workers continue to be overlooked.

“As an infrastructure body representing voluntary sector providers of disability services, we gathered the views and perspectives of our members on how this policy could impact upon the provision of services to disabled people and their families.

“Although all agree that the care and safety of the people they support is of utmost importance, our members expressed differing views on the question of mandating both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine for their staff. Throughout all conversations there were clear concerns, on both sides of the argument, about how the policy will further impact on existing workforce challenges as well as issues around its implementation, particularly around the timing of its introduction.

“We hear first-hand how voluntary sector providers are facing significant financial and workforce pressures, grappling with high turnover, rising vacancy rates, and competition from other low pay sectors with some providers reaching a point, where decisions to not take on new services, or hand back contracts, are being made.

“And while in its response to the consultation, the government acknowledges workforce challenges and will introduce the extended regulations after the winter period and will not include flu vaccination, the reality for providers warrants more than a mere mention in a policy document.

“In our response to the consultation, we presented three essential actions that must be considered to minimise the negative impact for care providers and those they support if the proposal should go ahead:

  1. Urgently address the immediate workforce challenges facing the care sector. Central to this is making funds available for care workers to be paid a fair wage, which recognises the demands of their role and the value of their contribution to society. Analysis by VODG member Community Integrated Care, in partnership with Korn Ferry, found that social care workers are undervalued by as much as 39% – nearly £7,000 per year – in comparison to their peers in equivalent positions in other publicly funded sectors.
  2. Ensure sufficient funds are available to meet the additional costs providers will face in implementing the regulations, including, but not limited to, costs incurred in recording and monitoring staff vaccinations, losing and replacing staff, and responding to legal challenges from employees who refuse to be vaccinated.
  3. Produce clear and thorough guidance, co-produced with care providers so that there is no confusion or ambiguity around the process and timings.

“VODG welcomes any move that strengthens safety in the sector so long as it is proportionate to the risks and is considerately implemented to mitigate any negative impact on social care providers and people who draw on social care.

“As such, we would urge the government to ensure the disruption the implementation of these regulations could cause is kept to an absolute minimum.”

VODG Media Centre