Up to a quarter of homecare workforce could be lost, survey reveals

Jane Townson, Homecare Association chief executive

Over a third of domiciliary care providers believe they would lose between 0-24% of their workforce if vaccination becomes a condition of deployment, according to research from the Homecare Association.

Almost a quarter of providers surveyed thought they would lose over 25% of their staff who provide care to older and disabled people in their own homes. Responses were received between 8 and 15 October from 150 operators across England, who provide care to 27,000 people and employ 33,500 staff.

The government launched a six-week consultation in September proposing to implement compulsory Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for staff in all frontline health and care settings. It is still considering its response.

Over 90% of those surveyed thought it was certain or likely that recruitment will become harder if this comes into force and over 80% said they would need to dismiss staff as a result.

In a previous survey by the association, over three quarters of providers said recruitment was the ‘hardest it has ever been’. Many have experienced a 75% reduction in job applications since January.

The Homecare Association, which supports Covid-19 vaccination of the workforce, lobbied to ensure it was as easy as possible for workers to access jabs. Currently, 83.2% of workers have had the first dose, and 73.7% the second.

‘We understand that people who use services and their families expect care workers to be vaccinated,’ said Homecare Association chief executive Dr Jane Townson. ‘Vaccination is also desirable to help protect the health and safety of care workers themselves.

‘We are, however, warning of a risk of losing a quarter of our workforce, at a time when demand is rising and recruitment and retention are harder than ever. This creates a serious risk that homecare will not be available for tens of thousands of older and disabled people who are wholly reliant on support. Who will care for them?’

‘We feel it’s very important to balance the mitigated risk of infection with the risk of unavailability of care at home for highly dependent older and disabled people.

‘Our belief is that persuasion will be more effective than compulsion at encouraging vaccination of those with genuine fears, without losing vital workforce capacity.’

Compulsory Covid-19 vaccination of care home workers and others entering settings will come into force next week.