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New guidance: Vaccinations for homelessness and support workers
We have been lobbying the Welsh Government for several weeks to issue guidance to health boards and local authorities to make it clear that homelessness and support workers should be included in the broader definition of social care workers in vaccination priority group 2.
While some staff have been given the vaccine over the past few weeks, we know there has been significant variation across and within different parts of Wales - and we have been keen for the Welsh Government to address this.
The Welsh Government has now published a letter and guidance, which have been circulated to Health Board Chief Executives and Local Authority Directors of Social Services. While it is not as definitive as we would have liked, we hope it will help with your conversations locally about getting your staff vaccinated.
I would like to highlight the following paragraphs on page 2 and page 3 of the guidance, which state that eligibility is based on 'the vulnerability of the person in receipt of care or support' and the 'nature of the care or support provided':
6. Eligibility for frontline social care workers should be based on the following factors:
The vulnerability of the person in receipt of care or support: 
  • Those aged 65 and over (group 5) 
  • Those deemed extremely clinically vulnerable (group 4) 
  • Those with underlying health conditions (group 6) 
  • Children under 16 with complex medical needs/ serious neuro-disabilities
We have argued that people using homelessness and housing support services have worse health than the general population and lots have underlying health conditions which would place them in group 4 or group 6 - such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease and respiratory issues. Although people may not be registered with health services and in receipt of a shielding letter (due to their insecure housing situation), it is important that these risks are understood and staff are vaccinated accordingly.
Nature of the care or support provided:
Close regular and prolonged contact with people in the risk categories defined above in order to provide support functions where maintaining social distancing and/or the wearing of face masks is not possible. This could include, for example, those working in the supported housing sector, provided this satisfies the criteria outlined above in respect to type of contact and vulnerability of the person in receipt of care and support. Examples of this may be: 
  • intervening in challenging behaviour 
  • intervening in self-harm or risky behaviour 
  • day to day support of person with severe learning disability who cannot adhere to social distancing 
  • prolonged and close contact due to teaching life skills in confined conditions
As part of our representations to Welsh Government, we also said that people using services can struggle to maintain social distancing due to trauma, mental health problems, substance use or the nature of their learning disability. We also highlighted that support workers need to physically intervene in cases of self-harm and risky behaviour. This is reflected in the guidance quoted above and should help you to argue for your staff to be vaccinated.
Adults with Downs Syndrome
There has been some confusion and inaccuracies in recent letters about vaccine priority. As a result, the Welsh Government letter provides the following clarification:
The JCVI guidance lists Downs Syndrome under cohort 4 and 6. Please note that adults with Downs Syndrome are captured under the CEV category and should be prioritised accordingly and vaccinated in cohort 4.

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© Cymorth Cymru 2021
Company Registration No: 5093332
Charity No: 1116774