Carers UK is renewing its calls for the UK Government to prioritise unpaid carers for the COVID-19 vaccine, after the Scottish Government announced it would do last week.
When Carers UK asked carers in October what support they needed most, carers ranked their prioritised access to vaccinations highly at second place, even putting this above breaks and increases in benefits such as Carer’s Allowance.
Caring during the pandemic has been one of the hardest things carers say they have done, as they have tried to manage with limited support from services that have been reduced or closed entirely. They have spent nine months worrying about the risk of infection to the people they care for with complex health or care conditions, and this has taken its toll on their own health.
Carers UK has raised the issue of prioritised access to the COVID-19 vaccination with the Minister for Care and it was a recommendation from the Carers Advisory Group to the Adult Social Care Taskforce. It was also a key recommendation in our recent Caring Behind Closed Doors: Six Months On report, published in October.
We want to see carers prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccination for the same reasons they are recognised as a key worker during this pandemic, and are prioritised for the flu jab. The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recognised that if carers got the flu, then this could be catastrophic, impacting carers’ ability to care and putting the person they care for at risk. When unpaid carers cannot continue to carry out care, this places additional pressure on social care and health services. We want the same logic applied to the COVID-19 vaccination.
Last week, the Health Secretary in Scotland announced that unpaid carers would be on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccination. Carers Scotland and Carers UK has warmly welcomed this move, but we are now calling on the other three Governments to follow suit and value carers.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“Carers have given everything over the last nine months to protect their loved ones from COVID-19, taking every possible step to mitigate risks and keep that person as safe as possible.
“They have even sacrificed their own important breaks from their caring role in order to keep their loved ones safe from COVID-19. They will be at a complete loss if, once the vaccine is ready to be distributed, they are not on the priority list along with other key workers after all they have done to protect family members through this pandemic with limited support.
“Unpaid carers continue to play a vital role in keeping older, disabled and seriously ill people safe from this virus and the Government must recognise that and ensure they are on the priority list for the vaccination.”