26th September 2020

UNISON initiative to support ‘heroic’ care workers gains support of Somerset County Council

Council leaders in Somerset have today, Friday, become the first council in the South West to sign up to UNISON’s ‘Stop the Spread’ pledge, a key initiative by the UK’s biggest trade union to support care workers in the fight against coronavirus.

The pledge introduces a series of measures designed to protect care workers and reduce the spread of the virus in care homes.

The commitments in the pledge include key safety measures, such as priority testing for social care workers and providing lifesaving personal protective equipment. In addition, the pledge will provide key workers in the frontline fight against coronavirus with important employment protections. These include the provision of full pay during self-isolation and leave on full pay for workers caring for a dependent with COVID-19.

The pledge was developed to recognise that social care workers have been at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, often placing their lives at risk by simply going to work. Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that care workers are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than NHS workers. Despite their heroic efforts, many care workers have been treated badly by employers. A survey conducted by UNISON found that 8 out of 10 care workers would not receive their normal pay if they were absent due to COVID-19 and that, as a result of inadequate sick pay, has forced many to attend work while ill.

UNISON has written to all county councils and unitary authorities across the South West calling on them to sign the pledge.

Mel Lock, Somerset County Council’s Director of Adult Social Care, said:

“We have never relied so heavily on our care sector, and I’m sure that I speak on behalf of the whole county when I say we are so grateful to all our social care workers for their incredible work in supporting some of Somerset’s most vulnerable people throughout the pandemic. They have stepped up like never before – often at great personal cost – and we are absolutely committed to ensuring they receive the support, protection, and acknowledgment they deserve in what is likely to be one of the most challenging times in their careers.”

UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“The heroic role that care workers are undertaking during the coronavirus pandemic, in often highly dangerous and difficult circumstances, deserves the highest level of support and protection that employers can provide.

“By signing UNISON’s Stop the Spread pledge, Somerset County Council are leading the way and showing a commitment to care workers across the county. I hope that we see many more councils signing the pledge in the weeks to come.”