Cardiff Council denies Covid vaccines used to incentivise staff to do overtime

Covid-19 vaccine

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

Cardiff council has denied using the promise of coronavirus vaccines to incentivise staff to do overtime.

A council worker in Cardiff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told WalesOnline that staff working from home and people who agree to do overtime were being given the vaccine.

In response, Cardiff council said the only time staff who did overtime were given the vaccine was if the extra work they undertook “was directly linked to a frontline role”, i.e. if finance workers took on shifts in a hostel or care setting at a weekend.

A spokesman also “completely refuted the notion that staff on higher grades have been given priority to receive the vaccination. It’s nonsense.”

He said the council was following the priorities set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

According to the JCVI, vaccines should first be given to all care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care staff, everyone aged over 70, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

The anonymous council worker had alleged that managers working from home were among those being give the vaccine.

In an interview, the council worker said: “Morale is at an all time low and the ‘them and us’ divide for management and staff has never felt greater.

“The people in my department who have had it are just all the supervisors — but supervisors can work from home. People with vulnerabilities should be a priority. It doesn’t seem in line with the official list of what the priority should be.

“One supervisor told me that if you do overtime, you’re more likely to get a jab, because you would be more favoured.

“For our job we have to actually be boots on the ground. You think people who are the boots on the ground and can’t work home would perhaps be a higher priority than senior staff or people who could stay home.”

 

‘Nonsense’

Responding to the allegations, Cardiff council said they were a “misrepresentation of what is actually happening”.

A council spokesperson said: “The council completely refutes any suggestion that vaccines have been given first to managers, supervisors and those who can work from home. It’s simply not the case and a complete misunderstanding of how the vaccine rollout works, not only in Cardiff but across Wales.

“We also completely refute the notion that staff on higher grades have been given priority to receive the vaccination. It’s nonsense.

“The idea that staff who work overtime are more likely to get the vaccine is nonsense too, and a total misinterpretation of what is actually happening.

“The council is following the official JCVI priority list. We are putting forward for vaccination frontline staff and teams who play a key role in ensuring vital care services can continue to operate and not break down. We are also prioritising our partners’ frontline staff, people who work in care homes, domiciliary care and hostels.

“We are confident we have the right processes in place. All frontline staff in social care have been offered the vaccine. They have been prioritised from the outset. These groups were offered appointments at the earliest opportunity.

“Frontline staff who have been offered the vaccine include social care workers, the Pink Army who have been working in hospitals getting patients ready to leave hospital and return home, and our hostel and homeless teams who are helping the most vulnerable. Wider cohorts of staff whose job roles do not meet the JCVI criteria have not been offered the vaccine.

“As to the overtime allegation. Some staff who are carrying out overtime have been offered the vaccination because the overtime work they undertake is directly linked to a frontline role. As an example they may work in finance during the week and then work in a hostel or a care setting on the weekend.

“Many of our staff have been moved from their day job into a frontline care role to fight the pandemic, and many other staff are on call to help out in frontline care roles as and when needed.

“These are staff members who have volunteered to come forward to help vulnerable residents and care homes from the start of the pandemic. They could be called out to work with the most vulnerable people at any moment.

“Our teams are under tremendous pressure and are widely viewed as having done a fantastic job throughout the pandemic. Covid is affecting our ability to deliver services, so we need a bank of workers able to step into the breach to help deliver care across the city. We are thankful they have volunteered to help their communities.

“It’s important they are vaccinated so they can care for people safely and that any opportunities to spread the virus in vulnerable settings are reduced. They are all part of the team which is working to ensure services can continue and the most vulnerable can be cared for properly.”

Problems elsewhere in the Wales and England were reported this week in Denbighshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, where healthy staff not on the frontline were offered vaccinations.

In Denbighshire, North Wales Live reported that healthy staff could book a jab after an email blunder where invitations were wrongly sent to some council workers. Denbighshire said those ineligible who received an invitation will not yet get the vaccine, until it’s their turn.

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the Telegraph reported that two councils there secured vaccines for staff in children’s services departments who are working from home.

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