Covid-19 testing for homelessness staff welcome, but more clarity needed for voluntary sector

Saturday, 18 April 2020 - 9:05am

On 17 April, the Government announced that eligible staff working with people who are homeless and rough sleeping will be included in the groups for priority testing for covid-19. The guidance now states that 'local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers' are a priority category for testing. The guidance is not explicit as to whether this extends to voluntary sector staff. 

The guidance goes on to state that 'any frontline worker in England who is on the above list and would like to be tested should speak to their employer. Employers of frontline workers will be provided with information on how to make an appointment for their staff through their local resilience forum, their associated national department or agency, or directly through the Department of Health and Social Care.'

Responding to the updated guidance, Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link said:

"We welcome the recognition that staff working with rough sleepers and people who are homeless should be prioritised for testing. However as it currently stands, the guidance lacks clarity for the staff working in the hundreds of voluntary sector homelessness organisations across the country. 

 "Many are providing direct support to clients who are at heightened risk of covid-19 due to poor underlying health, and extending testing for those working in these settings is needed to both protect staff and the vulnerable clients they are supporting. Organisations are already under incredible pressure to meet the new demands brought on by covid-19, so testing is also critical to enable staff in vital frontline roles to return to work safely following periods of self-isolation.

"Homeless Link has been calling on Government to prioritise testing for frontline homelessness stafftesting for frontline homelessness staff since the escalation of the crisis. So while we are encouraged by today's announcement, we must ensure that as testing capacity is increased, we get the assurance that staff in the voluntary sector will also benefit from this."

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