A BODY representing hundreds of care homes across the North-East says making two Covid jabs compulsory for workers has not helped the industry’s image.

Regulations now mean workers in homes for older people require two doses to be able to continue working, unless they have an exemption.

Workers had been given 16 weeks’ notice to get both jabs.

But Keith Gray, from Care North East, said the government’s stance had added to the image of care being an “awkward sector in which to work” and a “barrier to new entrants”.

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He added: “We also find it unreasonable that the NHS gets until April to vaccinate its staff while we have had to do it right in the throes of a staff shortage.

“Why does Government think people will choose to undertake a complex and challenging role – with personal and legal responsibility for the elderly they look after – at pay rates undermined by council and state funding when, for more than 20% more per hour, they can work in retail or hospitality without the same legal duties?

“The NHS itself has said there is an urgent need to invest in the social care workforce and that it is probably the biggest area at risk now as we head into this winter.”

Care North East has almost 250 members across the region – covering almost 10,000 beds and including homes in Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland.

Mr Gray said the group supported calls by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) urging the government to fund a £1,000 bonus for care workers to reward the job they did.

“That would be a start,” he added.

The Department of Health and Social Care said vaccines saved lives.

And government officials say a consultation on changes to vaccination rules for care home workers started before a consultation for NHS staff – with the same deliberation time and grace period.

A DHSC spokesperson added: “While staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people.

“We consulted and worked closely with the sector to encourage take up of the vaccine ahead of the deadline.

“Since the consultation was announced uptake of the first dose among care home staff has risen from 80% to 94%.

“We are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high quality care.”

Detailed NHS data offered a breakdown of reported jab take up among care staff on Teesside up to November 7.

Stockton saw 93.6% of staff in older adult care homes double-vaccinated with Middlesbrough on 91.5% and Redcar and Cleveland seeing 94.9% of workers having two doses.

Cllr Evaline Cunningham, chairwoman of Stockton’s adult social care and health select committee, told colleagues she’d asked for the latest position in the borough at a meeting on Tuesday.

“There haven’t been any significant issues at this time within the care homes,” she said.

“But it’s going to have to be something that is monitored and watched to make sure things don’t deteriorate.”

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