Vaccinating frontline workers and clients

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 - 1:26pm

Regular readers of Homeless Link blogs will know that earlier this month, we wrote to the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment to ask that working with people who have no home is treated as a priority occupation for vaccination, as a matter for urgency. We also asked members to write to their MPs to raise the same issue and many have taken immediate action, including asking their workforce to write to their own MPs.  

Following this, the MHCLG Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, wrote to local authorities asking them to determine whether or not the homelessness workforce might be categorised as frontline ‘social care workers’ directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COVID-19. And, in its operational guidance, NHS England identifies frontline ‘social care workers’ as those working directly with vulnerable people who need care and support and includes voluntary sector supported housing workers within this definition. According to the public health immunisation Green Book, ‘social care workers’ fall into the second cohort of the population to be prioritised for vaccination. NHS Trusts, as the default provider of COVID-19 vaccinations should, in conjunction with local authorities, take immediate action to offer COVID-19 vaccination to ‘social care workers’. 

More and more local authorities have already taken the lead in prioritising the homelessness workforce for vaccination. In Worcester last week, Worcester Cares, the City’s homelessness forum - set up by, amongst others, Homeless Link member St Paul's Hostel for the Homeless - took the initiative on 5 January. Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG liaised with Worchester Cares partners - including commissioned and non-commissioned homeless services such as day centres, street kitchens, outreach, drug and alcohol treatment, as well as advice providers, the local business improvement districts and principal local businesses - who each nominated a single point of contact and an estimate of vaccine numbers for frontline staff with the lead officer in the CCG. Within 24 hours the CCG had received the information they needed and, importantly, had established a way of communicating to organisations at pace. 

Jonathan Sutton, CEO of St Paul’s said “This is a huge effort. Worcester Cares has become a well-oiled machine and will play its part in helping in this national roll out.” 

Now, this week, following the Secretary of State's letter, local authorities and partners across the country have identified eligible staff - including voluntary sector navigators, outreach teams and hostel staff - and offered access to vaccinations.

Some local authorities are also taking the decision to proactively identify people with no permanent home who are clinicallly extremely vulnerable and offering them access to vaccination, a position reflected in Government’s vaccination plan, published earlier this week. 

Homeless Link members have already played a critical role in ensuring the safety of their workforce and those they work for, both by bringing political pressure to bear and by using existing local networks to make sure those at the frontline of homelessness and their clients get the protection they need. 

To get your homelessness population and workforce prioritised for vaccination we recommend: 

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Sue Christoforou

Policy Manager

Sue Christoforou is a Policy Manager at Homeless Link.

Email: Mobile: 07375 042 814