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British Association of Social Workers opposes compulsory vaccination of workforce

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has announced its opposition to the possibility that vaccination could be made compulsory for social work staff.

02/11/21

British Association of Social Workers opposes compulsory vaccination of workforce

The UK Government is seeking views on plans for staff in health and care settings in England to be required to have COVID-19 and flu vaccines to continue working with vulnerable people.

Plans are already in place to make it mandatory for care home workers in England to be fully vaccinated. New regulations came into force in July making vaccination compulsory for those working in and attending care homes in England from 11 November 2021, and campaigners believe a similar policy could soon come into force for all health and social care staff.

However, the British Association of Social Workers has now joined many unions in opposing any plans for a requirement of double-vaccination for social work staff.

Martin Sexton, chair of BASW’s Policy Ethics and Human Rights Committee, said that while the association opposes the vaccination being made compulsory, it acknowledges the importance of vaccination in managing the spread of COVID and continues to encourage its members to receive the vaccine if they are able to do so.

“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.”

A consultation was carried out in September and October looking at whether requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers and those in contact with patients and people receiving care. It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said at the time that “we must do what we can to protect vulnerable people”.

“It’s so clear to see the impact vaccines have against respiratory viruses which can be fatal to the vulnerable, and that’s why we’re exploring mandatory vaccines for both COVID-19 and flu,” the Health Secretary said.

However, Christina McAnea, UNISON General Secretary, has warned of a “catastrophic” staffing crisis unless the Government abandons the “draconian” policy.

“This move is damaging a sector already on its knees and undermining trust in the vaccine. If roles can’t be filled, the level and volume of care offered will be reduced. Vaccine-hesitant staff must be offered reassurance and persuasion, not threats and ultimatums.”

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