COVID Vaccinations For The Homeless And Front Line Workers

Earlier this month, Homeless Link wrote to the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment to ask that working with people who have no home is treated as a priority occupation for vaccination, as a matter for urgency.

They also asked members to write to their MPs to raise the same issue and many have taken immediate action, including asking their workforce to write to their own MPs. Following this, the MHCLG Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, wrote to local authorities asking them to determine whether or not the homelessness workforce might be categorised as frontline ‘social care workers’ directly working with people clinically vulnerable to COVID-19. And, in its operational guidance, NHS England identifies frontline ‘social care workers’ as those working directly with vulnerable people who need care and support and includes voluntary sector supported housing workers within this definition.

According to the public health Immunisation Green Book, ‘social care workers’ fall into the second cohort of the population to be prioritised for vaccination. NHS Trusts, as the default provider of COVID-19 vaccinations should, in conjunction with local authorities, take immediate action to offer COVID-19 vaccination to ‘social care workers’.

More and more local authorities have already taken the lead in prioritising the homelessness workforce for vaccination. In Worcester last week, Worcester Cares, the City’s homelessness forum – set up by, amongst others, Homeless Link member St Paul’s Hostel For The Homeless – took the initiative on 5 January. Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG liaised with Worchester Cares partners – including commissioned and non-commissioned homeless services such as day centres, street kitchens, outreach, drug and alcohol treatment, as well as advice providers, the local business improvement districts and principal local businesses – who each nominated a single point of contact and an estimate of vaccine numbers for frontline staff with the lead officer in the CCG. Within 24 hours the CCG had received the information they needed and, importantly, had established a way of communicating to organisations at pace.

Jonathan Sutton, CEO of St Paul’s said “This is a huge effort. Worcester Cares has become a well-oiled machine and will play its part in helping in this national roll out.” Now, this week, following the Secretary of State’s letter, local authorities and partners across the country have identified eligible staff – including voluntary sector navigators, outreach teams and hostel staff – and offered access to vaccinations. Some local authorities are also taking the decision to proactively identify people with no permanent home who are clinically extremely vulnerable and offering them access to vaccination, a position reflected in Government’s vaccination plan, published earlier this week. Homeless Link members have already played a critical role in ensuring the safety of their workforce and those they work for, both by bringing political pressure to bear and by using existing local networks to make sure those at the frontline of homelessness and their clients get the protection they need.

To get your homelessness population and workforce prioritised for vaccination it recommends:

  • Speaking to your commissioner, local authority Director of Adult Social Services or Director of Public Health and letting them know that your workforce needs to be vaccinated. Ask about timescales and vaccination sites.
  • Using your homelessness forum (your local authority will know if a forum operates in your area) or work with local partners, to put in place referral pathways
  • Working with your local authority and CCG to coordinate provision of mobile or satellite vaccination facilities which are easily accessible to people experiencing homelessness
  • Contacting your local CCG and seek a meeting to discuss the need to prioritise clients, as well as workers
  • Ensuring all your clients are registered with a GP and that those who are clinically vulnerable are known to health services
  • Challenging any GP refusal to register your clients
  • Subscribing to the PHE vaccination update, and
  • Feeding intelligence to Homeless Link.