Earlier this year, on 16 June, the government announced that Covid-19 vaccinations would be a mandatory requirement for working in care homes in England. Although this requirement doesn’t cover Shared Lives arrangements at the time of writing, questions have been raised about whether this policy could be extended to all health and care staff, including Shared Lives carers. We have begun consulting our members on their views, so we can best represent you, if, and when, discussions about extending the vaccine requirement take place.
The scientific and medical evidence is clear that the vaccines are safe, and that widespread uptake of vaccination is the best way of managing and ending the Covid-19 crisis, and we encourage everyone living in a Shared Lives household to get vaccinated as soon as they can. We believe we and our members could increase vaccination uptake if government provided us with support to educate everyone on the continuing risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
However, we do not believe that the planned mandatory vaccination laws are a viable or effective policy due to serious concerns about how such a policy would be implemented and the implications for the rights of people in Shared Lives families.
Our member survey in June and July this year, showed some support for mandatory vaccinations, but also some concerns, including many who felt there should be exemptions. The main reason given in support of the policy was to protect vulnerable service users, while members who do not support the policy (including those who have been vaccinated) disagreed with it on the basis that it is a rights-based issue and that no-one should be compelled to accept medical treatment against their will.
We continue to advocate for Shared Lives families to have the vaccine, and are pleased that vaccine uptake in Shared Lives appears to be high. We are also pleased that incidences of infection, serious illness and death from Covid-19 in Shared Lives settings remain mercifully low in comparison to other care settings.
Where Shared Lives carers and people they support do not wish to have the vaccine, we recommend a case-by-case approach based on individual risk assessments, respecting the wishes and decisions of the individuals concerned.
Were vaccinations made mandatory for all existing Shared Lives carers, we would be particularly concerned that longstanding, happy Shared Lives arrangements could be brought to an end, against the will of the individual living in that household, which would be a significant breach of their human rights. Based on other organisation’s experience, we believe that education and support to get vaccinated are a more effective approach in the long term.
This article will appear in the September issue of Sharing magazine.