Social workers in Southend are continuing to make visits to vulnerable families and could be asked to do so even if people have reported symptoms of coronavirus, the council has said.
Southend Council has stressed it is prioritising support for the town’s most vulnerable as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread through the country.
While there has been widespread concern about frontline NHS staff having direct contact with people infected with the virus, social workers are also having to take great risks to their own health to support those at risk of abuse and exploitation.
Councillor Trevor Harp (Ind), who oversees health in the borough, confirmed that some may even be asked to visit families that have symptoms of coronavirus.
He said: “Our frontline staff are doing a great job in what are very challenging times and we are having to consider the contact in light of the government guidance, balanced with ensuring we can support and safeguard local people.
“Social workers are following national guidance to wash hands on entering and leaving after each visit, in addition to phoning ahead before to ask if the person or their family/friends are self-isolating or have tested positive, and to carry out remote assessments where possible.
“It would only be in extreme cases, with people at significant risk, for social workers to continue with a visit if the person was showing symptoms.“In these cases, we would ensure the social worker had the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before entering.
“Currently, PPE is being prioritised for care workers who are in constant contact and often delivering personal care to individuals who have underlying health conditions and social care needs.”
A nationwide survey undertaken by the union British Association of Social Work (BASW) has found across the country there is widespread concern from workers who “have little direction or guidance on safety other than to wash hands”.
The union is calling for them to be “afforded the same commitment for safety as our health care colleagues”, adding the “lack of safety provision is adding to already extreme levels of anxiety and worry for front line practitioners”.
Dr Ruth Allen, CEO of BASW, said: “Governments across the UK have been focused on healthcare.
“They now need to show equal commitment to social care and social workers. This is essential if social workers and social care colleagues are to work with health and other colleagues with the intensity needed to meet the challenges of COVID-19.
“Social workers must be supported to safeguard people at particular risk of harm, isolation and neglect during this period and to protect rights and ethical practice in this emergency and for the long term.”