The Homecare Association is calling for urgent prioritisation of home care and other essential workers on garage forecourts, as petrol supplies run dry across the country.
The organisation has made the appeal to local and central government following a weekend which saw home care workers caught in queues, being late for calls, struggle to buy petrol and turned down as essential workers as garages brought in their own rationing.
One carer from Newquay was turned away from a local petrol station because she was not deemed to be an emergency worker.
Helping Hands CEO Andy Hogarth told Home Care Insight that the fuel shortage has hit his company hard in some areas of the country.
“Because we have carers spread out so widely it’s not easy for us to offer much help individually, so we are relying on the letters we have prepared asking fuel outlets to give carers priority for refuelling and hoping that the government and local authorities will support us,” he said.
Alex Green, director of Radfield Home Care Franchising, said the fuel delivery crisis and panic buying by the public is placing vulnerable people “at serious risk”.
He explained: “If the situation continues, care providers like us will be unable to visit their clients and client health will be seriously affected. While we are currently able to operate safely, we call on the government to prioritise key workers for access to fuel, should the situation not resolve over the coming days.”
Ben Ashton, director of Good Oaks Home Care, commented: “The fuel shortage is adding a further burden to home care teams who are already going above and beyond to cover staff shortages and self-isolation.
“To support our teams we have a dedicated staff thread for sharing updates about fuel availability, office staff monitoring social media for updates and reducing travel distance between clients where possible. If all that fails, we will develop runs of visits that can be done under pedal power.”
Jane Townson, chief executive of the Homecare Association, formerly the UKHCA, has been engaged in urgent talks with senior officials at the Department of Health and Social Care, local government representatives and health policymakers throughout the weekend, to find a solution.
She said: “Home care delivery remains disrupted by difficulties obtaining fuel and traffic jams. Despite what the likes of the Automobile Association (AA) have said, there is only patchy prioritisation of essential workers, including homecare workers on garage forecourts.
“In previous fuel strikes, local authorities have been able to arrange for scarce fuel to be prioritised for essential users. There is a question whether this needs authority from central government, under civil contingencies legislation, to address the current problem. We call for this issue to be resolved urgently, as home care workers need a fast solution so they can get to people who rely on their vital help. “The lack of communication from government is not helping.”
The Homecare Association is calling on the government to:
1) declare there is an issue so that local authorities can invoke their civil contingency plans;
2) make clear to fuel retail companies and the public that homecare and other workers must be prioritised;
3) provide fuel vouchers for homecare and other essential workers so that their eligibility for fuel is clear; and
4) communicate swiftly to the nation that priority must be given to essential workers and panic buying creates risks to the health and wellbeing of older and disabled people.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said the government must “get a grip on the fuel crisis” to protect essential services.
“Ambulance crews, nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, police staff and other key workers mustn’t be left stranded or forced to queue for hours simply to get to a pump,” she added.
“The government could solve this problem now by using emergency powers to designate fuel stations for the sole use of key workers.”