Discussions at the Workforce Issues Group (WIG) centred on the implications of the different protection levels set out in the Government’s Strategic Framework. We raised a number of issues raised and have requested that the group is brought back together as soon as possible to get clarity on them:
There was much discussion about Sheilding and the individual nature of the new guidance for those at highest risk which you can read here. Scottish Government representatives indicated that there would be no going back to the blanket approach of shielding for those in the higher risk categories. They say that they have learnt that it is difficult to isolate people effectively and are concerned about the health (both physical and mental) and economic implications of doing so. They stated that the majority of workplaces can be ‘made safe’ and so there is no blanket advice that these individuals should be taken out of the workplace.
In Level 1 they see no substantive change for these individuals to the rest of the population – they follow the generic SAFE guidance.
In Levels 2 and 3 these individuals are to complete the individual risk assessment to highlight potential risks and discuss these with their employer. If concerns remain they are advised to consult their GP/OHS.
In Level 4 the CMO will issue a letter for the duration of the time their local area remains in that level. They described this letter as ‘like a fit note’ but it was not at all clear whether it was a fit note or something else – we have asked for clarity on this.
There was a lot of debate about the statement that ‘most workplaces can be made safe’ and what happens if there is a difference of views about whether they are safe. Scottish Government representatives stated that it is for the employer to determine what is reasonable and practical in terms of this and which mitigations can or should be put in place to make the workplace safe. We reminded them of their responsibilities under Health and Safety legislation.
We raised specific concern about staffing levels and highlighted the FOI results and the survey of cleaning members in schools that the EIG recently undertook - read the report here. They are going to follow up on the flow of money to LAs and staffing levels of those that have not increased cleaner numbers.
We asked for clarity about the evidence being used to underpin decisions about the allocation to different protection levels and the importance of sharing this evidence with local trade union representatives.
We asked for clarity about movement between the different levels and emphasised the importance of clear communication if there was to be regular movement. We also asked that there is a local forum bringing together local authority, public health and trade union representatives when any local authority is put into Level 4.
There was much discussion about self-isolation for those found to have been in ‘contact’ with someone who had tested positive for the virus. You might find this guidance helpful in advising members who have concerns about the contact criteria:
We will as always give you an update when we have more information on all of this.
Adult Social Care Winter Preparedness Plan
A plan outlining steps to prepare and support Scotland’s social care sector through the winter has been published which you can find here.
Actions outlined in the plan include:
enhanced infection prevention and control, with £7 million for Health Boards to invest in Nurse Director teams
daily review of COVID-19 symptoms in care home residents and staff, including temperature checking so early testing can be undertaken and pre-emptive infection control measures put in place
expanded testing access for the care at home workforce and designated visitors as capacity increases
NHS National Services Scotland will continue to provide free of charge top-up and emergency provision of PPE to ensure staff, unpaid carers, and Social Care Personal Assistants have the PPE they need until at least the end of March 2021
prioritise a ‘home first’ approach to care, supporting people to stay home or in a homely setting with maximum independence for as long as possible
up to £500,000 will be available to all care homes to provide access to digital devices, connectivity and support to help manage conditions from home or connect those receiving care with their loved ones
£50 million to support the additional costs of restricting staff movement across care settings
£50 million for the Social Care Staff Support Fund and winter sustainability funding, through to the end of March 2021
maintaining and promoting access to local NHS Board workforce wellbeing services, the health and social care wellbeing national hub PROMIS and the NHS 24 mental health support service to support care home staff, the third sector and unpaid carers
up to £5 million for additional oversight and administration costs associated with responding to the pandemic and outbreak management
publication of a website with information and advice for families on visiting.
Social Care Bonus Payment
Further to the announcements made yesterday please see attached the letter sent by Jean Freeman to all local authorities and COSLA. We know that this will raise a lot of questions and are seeking urgent clarification on who this applies to, how it is to be funded, how the money flows etc and will come back to you as soon as we have further details.
Extension of the Self-Isolation Support Grant
The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced today. The grant will also become available to those who may be eligible for Universal Credit, but have not yet applied.
Both changes will be introduced from 7 December.
Universal Credit Claimant stats
We thought you might be interested in the most recent official statistics on people claiming, receiving, and starting on Universal Credit in Scotland, taken directly from the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) collection of Universal Credit Statistics. It also summarises recent statistics on unemployment benefit claims and
households affected by the Benefit cap.
The percentage increases are shocking and sobering and lay bare the increased pressures local authorities will face in supporting those most in need. Edinburgh has seen an eye-watering 184% increase in claimant count numbers since the start of the pandemic.
LG Pay 2021
We had another discussion with the other SJC TUs on the construct of the 2021 pay claim today and have made good progress towards a joint position. Another meeting is due to be held next week and we will update you on progress of those discussions as soon as we can.
Testing for care home visitors gets underway
Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for designated visitors of care home residents has started this week with a trial across five local authority areas.
Lateral flow testing of designated visitors is being trialled in 14 early adopter care homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde, and Aberdeenshire.
Testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes from Monday 14 December, as announced by the First Minister on Wednesday, once guidance and training materials have been finalised following the trial.
For any care homes unable to make use of lateral flow tests before Christmas, PCR testing of visitors will be available when necessary to facilitate visiting over the festive period.
Guidance, tools and resources on visiting, and supporting residents in care homes during COVID-19 (incl over the festive season)
Guidance on how care home visiting may be gradually increased while minimising risks to residents, staff and visitors has been issued. The guidance recommends care homes take a staged approach to resuming visiting. In addition, the guidance sets out actions to mitigate risks to residents, visitors and staff.
For all care homes, regardless of Covid status, essential visits are to be supported where possible to do so safely, without a defined time limit.