Essential workers must be given fuel priority, says sector

September 28, 2021

Care sector leaders are calling on the Government to urgently prioritise care workers and other essential workers for fuel access, as panic buying continues to disrupt the UK’s fuel supplies.

It’s been days since the first queues started to build, but cars continue to block roundabouts and the frustration from the sector is growing. The sector is concerned about how the crisis is deeply affecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) is calling for measures to guarantee access to fuel for care staff – perhaps with designated protected slots at filling stations and is asking other drivers to think twice about topping up their tanks and limit car use while current shortages persist.

Stephen Chandler, ADASS president, said, ‘Care staff must be able to do their jobs. They provide essential support to people to eat and drink, wash, go to bed and get up and out to work and other activities - and to take medication and relieve pain.

The ADASS President added, ‘The Government must do all it can to guarantee adequate fuel supplies at filling stations, but the problems being experienced by care staff show that special steps are needed to help them. The public also has a responsibility not to make their difficulties any worse.’

Mark Topps, Director of NACAS, an independent professional organisation run for and by care workers, said, ‘As quick as one care worker fills up, another needs to re-fuel. Where are the care ministers who should be putting pressure on the Government to ensure frontline care workers are prioritised at the forecourts to prevent delays in supporting vulnerable people within their homes. Care providers have enacted their contingency plans, with some cancelling visits and office teams deployed into the field to ensure care visits are covered to some of the most vulnerable people within our society.

He added, ‘We have seen emergency service workers prioritised fuel, and yet again care workers are not seen as essential workers despite everything they have been through during the pandemic.’

Jane Townson, chief executive of the Homecare Association, has been engaged in urgent talks with senior officials at the Department of Health and Social Care, local government representatives and health policymakers throughout the weekend, to find a solution. Jane said,  ‘Homecare delivery remains disrupted by difficulties obtaining fuel and traffic jams. Despite what the likes of the Automobile Association (AA) have said, there is only patchy prioritisation of essential workers, including homecare workers on garage forecourts.

‘In previous fuel strikes, local authorities have been able to arrange for scarce fuel to be prioritised for essential users. There is a question whether this needs authority from central government, under civil contingencies legislation, to address the current problem. We call for this issue to be resolved urgently, as homecare workers need a fast solution so they can get to people who rely on their vital help.

The Homecare Association says that the lack of communication from Government is not helping and are calling on the Government to:

1) Declare there is an issue so that local authorities can invoke their civil contingency plans.

2) Make clear to fuel retail companies and the public that homecare and other workers must be prioritised.

3) Provide fuel vouchers for homecare and other essential workers so that their eligibility for fuel is clear.

4) Communicate swiftly to the nation that priority must be given to essential workers and panic buying creates risks to the health and wellbeing of older and disabled people.

CHD Care at Home, a provider of domiciliary care which also includes 13 residential care home facilities and two rehabilitation centres has also reacted to the news.

Head of Hospitality and Communications at CHD Care, said, 'The impact of the fuel shortage on our domiciliary care business has been enormous, especially as we operate in some very remote areas. Currently, many of our carers are unable to get enough fuel to make their rounds as most petrol stations are limiting them to £30. Carers can do up to 100 miles per day so these restrictions mean that they are having to fuel up more often as they cannot fill their tanks. Not only is this more costly, but it's also adding time to their already busy days.'

At CHD's South Surrey branch, delays are causing rounds to be pushed back at least 30 minutes with carers missing breaks and working later to ensure all clients are seen.

Shaleeza Hasham added, 'As a provider of home care we look after extremely vulnerable individuals, some of whom cannot even get out of bed without support or assistance, the situation is proving extremely difficult and stressful. Being unable to get to clients who depend on us just isn’t an option. To minimise the impact as shortages continue, we would highly support NHS and key workers being given priority for fuel. Otherwise, the impact could be disastrous on the essential services we deliver.'

Visit the Home Care Association website for more information on the media coverage.

In other news, The #BetterPay4SocialCare coalition visited the steps of the HM Treasury on the 21st September, to shine a light on the rates of pay for care workers.


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