Many children’s social workers excluded from Covid-19 vaccine priority groups

Guidance says practitioners not in line for jab because they do not work with service users deemed vulnerable to Covid, as directors' body renews call for government to prioritise children’s staff in vaccine rollout

Woman receiving Covid-19 vaccine from nurse
Photo: Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

Many children’s social workers are excluded from priority groups for Covid-19 vaccination, government, council and NHS leaders have confirmed.

A framework for the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines among frontline social workers, published on Friday, suggests there may also be some adult social workers who are not a priority for vaccination, though the situation remains unclear.

Frontline health and social care workers are in priority group 2 for vaccination, alongside those aged over 80 and just behind older care home residents and their staff, as set out by government advisers the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Separately, the government’s “green book” for immunisation against infectious diseases said social care workers covered by the first two priority groups included:

  • Those working in long-stay residential and nursing care homes or other long-stay facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow the introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality.
  • Social care staff directly involved in the care of their patients or clients.
  • Others involved directly in delivering social care such that they and vulnerable patients are at increased risk of exposure.

Priority based on who you work with

In setting out what this meant in practice, the framework, published by Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association and NHS England, said that the frontline staff covered by priority group two were those who worked with service users who were particularly vulnerable to Covid.

It said the group included: “All frontline social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 who need care and support irrespective of where they work (for example in people’s own homes, day centres, care homes for working-age adults or supported housing); whether they care for clinically vulnerable adults or children; or who they are employed by (for example local government, NHS private sector or third sector employees).”

It added that being clinically vulnerable to Covid-19, as defined by the JCVI, encompassed older people, those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable (of any age) and people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions that increased risk of mortality or disease.

Who is deemed vulnerable?

Clinically extremely vulnerable people include those with certain cancers or having certain treatments for cancer, organ transplant recipients, those with severe respiratory conditions, adults on dialysis and those with Down’s syndrome. The full list is available here.

Those with underlying health conditions that increase their risk include people with severe mental illness, severe or profound learning disabilities, neurological conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s, people who have suffered a stroke and those with a range of other serious chronic conditions. The government’s green book says this also includes younger adults in care homes.

The framework said that directors of adult social services should have ultimate responsibility for identifying eligible social care workers in their area. However, it stressed that the priority group did not include “social care workers working with children who are not considered priority within the context of the JCVI priority cohorts”.

Many children’s practitioners not eligible

This means children’s social workers are only eligible if they work with children of any age who are clinically extremely vulnerable – such as those receiving chemotherapy – or those aged 16 and over with underlying health conditions that increase their risk, such as those with severe or profound learning disabilities.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson confirmed this was the case, as did ADASS.

Meanwhile, an Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) spokesperson said  it continued to urge the government to include children’s services staff in its priority list for receiving access to appropriate testing and the vaccine.

The spokesperson said the association was aware that the DfE was in “ongoing conversations about prioritisation of the children’s workforce, including education staff” and that it was a fast-moving situation.

The framework also implies that some frontline adult social workers may be excluded from the priority group, on the grounds that they work with younger adults in the community who are not clinically extremely vulnerable or have one of the specified underlying health conditions – such as adults with mental health problems not deemed severe or those with moderate learning disabilities. However, it is unclear whether these practitioners will be excluded in practice.

24 Responses to Many children’s social workers excluded from Covid-19 vaccine priority groups

  1. Fog January 19, 2021 at 3:49 pm #

    I agree with this – unless social workers are already under the maim risk groups for priority for a vaccination they need to wait.

    Statistically on 1% of people who have died from this virus are under 45 and the majority if them had underlying health conditions.

    What dies amaze me is that I have heard of quite a number of instances of people I know getting vaccinated who are hospital admin not part of any risk group. There seems to be a degree of nepotism going on in hospitals which needs to stop.

    What also concerns me is how social services chiefs sitting in their bunkers are not giving enough time and energy to ensure that there staff are supported and protected from infection. These chiefs will probably hope to get some kind of bong in due cause for believing that their efforts were worthy when the real heroes are their front line staff.

    • Bong! January 20, 2021 at 10:53 am #

      I’d love to be a fly on the wall when social services chiefs get a bong, sounds like a right laugh 😉

    • Parent of child with additional needs February 15, 2021 at 3:09 pm #

      Children’s front line Social Workers are visiting families in their homes every day. Many of those adults and children will fall into the vulnerability categories. They work with great grandparents, grandparents, parents and children with additional health needs, children and parents with disabilities, etc. So if workers aren’t vaccinated, should there be a delay in addressing child protection concerns or support needs of families who are already additionally vulnerable, until a Social Worker who has been vaccinated has capacity to go and do the visit? The decision yet again shows a lack of understanding about what children’s Social Workers do.

  2. kat January 19, 2021 at 4:35 pm #

    This is disgusting – the Gov Guidance issued on 4.1 actually refers to the core business of C&F SW and is clear that should continue. There has been no change in the Dfe expectations around visiting. SW are just 2nd class workers – shame people like the Principal SW cant speak up for once – always quick to comment when there is something to criticise! In my area, health workers that are only offering remote services and not visiting children or their parents have been vaccinated because they are health employees whereas SW’s and Support Workers are out there doing urgent work like CP investigations. crisis support and placing kids into care and are ‘not a priority’ – check the guidance below…..
    Where and when you can meet in larger groups
    • for work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, where it is unreasonable to do so from home. This can include work in other people’s homes where necessary – for example, for nannies, cleaners, social care workers providing support to children and families, or tradespeople.
    • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
    • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
    • to place or facilitate the placing of a child or children in the care of another by social services

  3. Penny Chadwick January 19, 2021 at 6:37 pm #

    I am a children’s social worker and have been continuously confused by the issue of whether I am in the priority groups or not. It is disgusting that my hopes were raised due to initially Boris Johnson saying social care workers were in the second priority group, then several others on national television but also including ‘health care workers’ ‘care workers’ as well as ‘social care workers.’ My social work colleagues at Milton Keynes where I used to work have all had the vaccine as they insisted on this from the NHS. I have heard nothing from my employer however. With the additional worry of being a carer for an 85 year old parent I am extremely anxious about this. This has been exacerbated by working for a council where they insist on ‘always seeing children alone’ when in reality this should be proportionate to risk. I am disgusted that this is a ‘postcode lottery’ and that if I had worked from my previous authority I would have been protected in the workplace with a vaccine by now.

  4. A Man Called Horse January 19, 2021 at 6:56 pm #

    Wake up Social workers try to keep up to speed. We hate you and you should know this by now.
    1. No pay rise for you lot might get a clap but even that’s pushing it.
    2. No Covid vaccine for you far more deserving people such as Rupert Murdock, serial killers and assorted friends of the government. Now get back to work you lazy slackers. Boris Johnson.

  5. Hector January 20, 2021 at 12:09 am #

    I am a hospital doctor whose partner is a CP social worker. We both work in London. Neither of us has received the vaccine. There is a post code lottery and some peculiar decisions are being made outside of the guidance. NHS and LA workers need to stand together and demand protection. Please don’t let our employers drive a wedge between us. Demand that your regulator and your national leaders advocate for you more robustly. I realise that medical bodies are more independent than the more subordinate role yours have with the Government but they claim to speak for you. Demand they are more proactive. I read Mark Trewin state very precisely that social workers were in the priority groups. Hold him to his assurance. Teachers are also excluded fro vaccination because they are not in contact with children who are not clinically extremely vulnerable but through their unions, they have defied the government and got other concessions.

  6. Dave M January 20, 2021 at 12:43 pm #

    The vaccination issue just highlights further the complete lack of voice our ‘social work leadership’ has. As a professional group we need to be considerably better at singing our own praises, highlighting what we actually do and what would happen if we weren’t there. I am sick and tired of social work being a ‘forgotten’ or even worse, ignored profession. We need a robust voice and sadly our ‘Chief’ Social Workers, BASW, SWU, Unison, Local Authorities, etc etc etc do not stand up for us, or advocate for us, effectively. The only people interested in us, is us! We need to put that right or we will continue to be seen as the ‘wimpy’ profession full of head tilters and ineffectual do-gooders that we present ourselves as.

  7. Clare January 20, 2021 at 7:45 pm #

    This is ludicrous. As a children’s social worker a huge number of our foster carers are shielding or vulnerable as older which means children just aren’t being seen. Lots of our visits are being done virtually to protect staff and families, which is necessary for now, but this decision ignores the fact that not visiting/virtual visiting entails other risks.

    We do a lot of emergency/urgent callouts on duty so there’s no way to know when my colleagues might be called on to visit a clinically vulnerable child or adult. This decision acts like children live alone instead of multi generational households and settings. As usual, poorly thought through crap.

    • Heather January 29, 2021 at 9:43 pm #

      Bravo well said. My sentiments expressed exactly.

  8. Lincolnshirelass January 20, 2021 at 9:12 pm #

    I’m a children’s social worker and proud to say Lincolnshire have this week rolled out vaccines to all us social workers. We see families every day, in their homes, with just a mask gloves and apron for protection. You can’t distance from kids, you can’t keep a mask on if you’re asking really personal questions about trauma they’re experiencing. Thank god our bosses have seen that to keep us working we need the vaccine to protect us, our loved ones and the families we work with.

  9. Vicky Lauren January 21, 2021 at 6:59 am #

    I am a social worker doing frontline work and my employer has arranged this for us. My jab is on Saturday 23 January :-). Thank you Boris

  10. susan Holliday January 22, 2021 at 6:31 pm #

    Have they forgotten that children live in families with adults who may be clinically vulnerable?

    • David January 27, 2021 at 3:42 pm #

      This is what I don’t understand – how would a child’s social worker not also have contact with the child’s parents? Worse than that, the idea that children themselves can’t spread the virus is a convenient myth. Glad to see lots of individual employers have seen through the Government’s stance and are vaccinating employees anyway, but this shouldn’t be dependent on an employer/postcode lottery. Frontline staff should be prioritised.

  11. Anne-Marie Fern January 22, 2021 at 6:59 pm #

    We go from house to house and we are ‘Children AND FAMILIES’ Social Workers! The families we work with are a mixture of able bodied and disabled, healthy and clinically vulnerable, young and old. Most of our Asian families have elderly relatives living with them. A reason for involvement can be a sick or disabled child or parent.

    Whilst we are unvaccinated we are an increased risk to ourselves and to the communities we serve.

  12. Beth January 22, 2021 at 7:32 pm #

    Just appalling that it appears to be a postcode lottery with no strong voice to stick up for Social Workers. There are Local Authorities vaccinating people who have no direct contact with vulnerable adults. There needs to be a national decision to protect those who give their lives to working with vulnerable people adults or children. If children’s workers are expected to visit it is unfair on the families if they are not vaccinated and infection minimised.
    BASW should be doing more the voice of Social Work and it’s role in this pandemic is so weak that we have not even been mentioned.
    Again Gov allowing LA’s to make decisions. The issue with that is often the very LA’s that employ Social Workers do not place any value on them. We need to stick up for ourselves but often don’t have the time due to long hours and constant pressure for wages that do not reflect the complexity or professional standing of the work.
    All the bodies stating the currently represent Social Work should be ashamed of themselves.

  13. Conrad January 24, 2021 at 9:41 pm #

    Collagues seem to have overlooked the fact that one injection does not equate to being vaccinated. You are still at risk, if you want to be safe don’t be complacent. Just because your bosses pretend they have looked after you fient mean they have.

  14. IMAGINE January 25, 2021 at 9:51 am #

    Everyone will have an opinion on this…part of the reason the UK is one of the deadliest nations on earth (and has the biggest gap between rich and poor) is that our leaders, middle classes and those engaged with the news all arrogantly think they are right and they self-prioritise. Many people turn their noses up at other people breaking the rules but will also pop to their mates house or go to an illegal rave. Obviously there are the COVID deniers who simple remind me of people like Farage, Cummings and BoJo. Very British idiots.
    Partnership is a key social work value…but the fact it has to be taught at university in a social work degree says it all about our society…Thatcher lives on. (sad face)

    Where I work the most dangerous place has always been the council office. I work face to face with families when I am not at the office. I share the office with people manning the phones for social care at the council and many do not use the track and trace app and I know them a lot less than I know my service users. Between a social work office and a family home (in which I am wearing PPE) I know where I feel safest.

    If bureaucracy is social works enemy, it must be COVID’s friend. The reason…hospitals and vaccination hubs are throwing Pfizer away because of missed appointments. Similarly to how misguided people were to vote the Tories in there are many who are misguided enough to trust the system! Waiting like good little minions until some administrator allows you to be safe in your job. Just go to the hospital with your ID and NHS number and ask a nurse politely. Our families have to put up with our red tape but we do not have to. Be proactive, remember you live in a democracy and remember each vaccination is a step towards ‘normality’.

    IT HAS BEEN TIME TO BE A RADICAL SOCIAL WORKER FOR A DECADE. TOGETHER. Imagine if we could do our job without panel and be trusted to help people by our bosses.

    BUT do not forget that the world knew about this deadly virus months before any action was taken followed by mistakes, followed by unclear guidance and this IS what our nation (perhaps unwittingly) voted for. Austerity related death was up around 130,000 people already.

  15. Sammy January 26, 2021 at 10:46 am #

    My my, I never thought being radical meant barging in front of others with an ID badge and NHS number and “politely” DEMAND a jab. Never mind the isolated, scared, confused 80 year old, never mind the uncomprehending, the depressed, the anxious vulnerable citizens. Show power by the sharpness of our elbows indeed. I wouldn’t trust any social worker that lambasts others who “self prioritise” but sees it as their duty to do the same for themselves. Hyperbole is the curse of social work, hypocracy close behind. We are champions of dignity until we willfully deny services to the vulnerable but take no responsibility when the Ombudsman finds against us. We are champions of human rights but happily send people to food banks. And the most obvious?There would be no Tory government unless social workers voted for them in big numbers too. Colleagues in London, do you recall how you voted for Boris Johnson to two terms as London Mayor? Who are the Very British idiots here than?

  16. Richard January 28, 2021 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s not about sharp elbows, it’s about getting what we deserve. We put our lives on the line every day, why shouldn’t we be nearer to the head of the que? I am sick of how we always allow ourselves to be trampled on. Frankly, some of the vaccines will be wasted anyway given the natural life expectancy of priority age groups. Harsh maybe but let’s not pretend we shouldn’t ration scarce supplies. Also I am not sure for example why hospital porters are getting vaccines and I can’t as a C&F social worker? Why are they more at risk moving trolleys around a sterile hospital environment than we who are in and out of houses and exposed to infecting children. Stand up for social work.

  17. Jilly January 28, 2021 at 11:50 pm #

    I am a foster carer . My foster children have had no face to face access to Social Workers for over 10 months, thankfully their Social Workers acknowledge that I became sole personal carer to my mum at the start of the first lockdown – so I am shielding – for her. We communicate via TEAMS. We have not even been to a supermarket in all of that time. We are a multi-generational family spanning almost 90 years . The relief ( of our children ) when they realised ( earlier this week) that we were to be vaccinated in early February was tangible. I believe the early emotional trauma experienced by children in the care system means that they need the reassurance that our vaccines can provide. My husband and I are in our early 60’s.
    We have continued to work 24/7 without any respite for over 2 years now .

  18. Tommy January 29, 2021 at 8:50 am #

    Eugenics, rationing, envy and denial of health care to the undeserving. Well done Social Work England, registration really is ensuring that bigotry, anger, divisiveness, closed minds and judgemental blaming are all integral to the new “well regulated” social work. Well done BASW, your webinars are really helping colleagues like Richard embrace inclusivity. Stand up for social work: blame the feckless, the ignorant, the sponging, the uneducated, the whiners and the “unproductive” wealth drainers rather than a social and economic system which ensures there will always be poverty and disadvantage.

  19. Anna Blackmore-Dawes February 14, 2021 at 1:05 pm #

    I am a SW working with disabled children who are clinically at risk of they catch Covid. I booked my vacine slot at Bath Racecourse. I was turned away. I was informed, today for some reason, they could not vaccinate anyone working with children. It was a booking online error. I tried to cancel to enable someone else to use the slot. The online system asks you to wait a day to cancel after the event. My SW colleagues some 39 minutes down the road in Bristol were successful in getting their vaccinations. This system makes no sense. Why waste a slot and possibly a vacine when I am eligible and wanting to protect the children and their carers I work with.

  20. Hatbet February 16, 2021 at 8:04 pm #

    I appreciate the work good social workers do. My friend is one. She’s s team leader , working long hours in a difficult job. But she’s worked from home since March. She was having weekly tests since the Summer and had A vacvine 2 weeks ago. I’m a teacher. I work with extremely vulnerable and young children. Last week I was cried on, snotted on, hugged several children who were upset, including 2 in care and 2 who have fled d.v. I also had 5 meetings with parents and did a visit to a home for a non attender. I’m not even on the list. It’s So devisive and unfair. PVI nursery staff can get the. Jab, but not the same staff who work in a school setting? When was the last time the pm went near an inner city school,? Makes me so depressed.