Social workers in England with the symptoms of coronavirus will be given access to tests to support local authorities get staff who are self-isolating but do not have the virus get back to work.
The government said today that an expansion in testing capacity has meant that it was now able to extend it to a wider group of critical workers, beyond NHS staff and, since earlier this week, care workers.
It said that testing would now be opened up to local authority staff including those working with vulnerable adults and children, victims of domestic abuse, homeless people and rough sleepers. Children’s home and residential special school staff, home care workers for disabled children and young people and substance misuse staff were among other groups who would have access to tests.
With councils in some areas reporting that one in five staff in adult social care are off work because they are sick or self-isolating – including because they or others in their household have coronavirus symptoms – testing offers the prospect of many of this group returning to work if they test negative for the virus.
Earlier in the month, the British Association of Social Workers called for social workers to be made a priority group for testing to help deal with the depletion to teams caused by sickness and self-isolation.
To get a test staff will need to inform their employer who would then need to contact their local resilience forum – a partnership of councils, NHS organisations and emergency services – to arrange an appointment.
The test involves taking a swab of the back of the nose or throat and is available at a variety of NHS facilities and private drive-through sites. Results are sent back by text message within 48 hours.