Social care workers are dying from coronavirus at around twice the rate of health workers, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has said.
ONS calculates that 131 social care workers died from the virus up to April 20, with rates of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 males (45 deaths) and 9.6 deaths per 100,000 females (86 deaths).
Care workers and home carers accounted for most of the deaths (98 out of 131, or 74.8%), which also included social workers, managers of residential care institutions and care escorts.
“In our analysis, rates of death involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) among male and female social care workers were found to be statistically significantly higher than the rates of death involving COVID-19 among those of the same age and sex in England and Wales,” the ONS said.
Among healthcare workers, such as doctors and nurses, rates of death involving COVID-19 were not found to be statistically different to rates of death involving COVID-19 in the general working population, with 10.2 deaths per 100,000 males and 4.8 deaths per 100,000 females (63 deaths).
Ben Humberstone, Deputy Director for Health Analysis and Life Events, commented: “Even though our analysis suggests that social care occupations have a lower exposure to disease than healthcare workers, both men and women working in social care had significantly raised rates of COVID-19 deaths. There are many different reasons why this could be the case and further work will be needed to look at this.”
The ONS said some healthcare workers may have reduced exposure to COVID-19 during lockdown, for instance, because of people not having dental or optician appointments.
“It is also possible that some deaths among healthcare workers will be investigated by coroners, delaying the registration of these deaths,” the organisation said.
“As more deaths are registered, it will be important to repeat these analyses to see if there are any changes in the rates of death involving COVID-19 among healthcare workers.”
Commenting on the findings, Lola McEvoy, GMB Organiser, said: “This data is harrowing. Our social care key workers are facing the maximum risk for the minimum wage and minimum sick pay. They are undervalued and have faced down a pandemic wholly unprotected for weeks.
“To see in black and white that social care workers are over represented in those who’ve sadly lost their life to Covid19 means a radical reform of our social care sector is critical going forward. We must evaluate how and why one of the lowest paid workforces in the UK was neglected so badly, and that this led to so many people losing their loved ones.”
Kathryn Smith, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “These are shocking figures. When the lockdown started and cases of COVID-19 increased, people were quite rightly worried for those working in the NHS. It appears that, in the first month or so of the pandemic, social care workers, despite putting their lives at risk and continuing to make a difference to people’s lives daily, were unfortunately a forgotten front line. What was needed then and what’s needed now is consistent and continuous testing; and the provision of protective equipment with training on how to wear it.
“There is a some hope though. These figures are up until 20 April and we at SCIE hope that the increased awareness of social care amongst policy-makers and the population at large will see care providers having easier access to protective equipment; and for testing to be ongoing and continuous in care settings.”
The figures are based on an analysis of the 2,494 registered deaths involving coronavirus among workers aged 20 to 64 in England and Wales up to and including April 20.
Nearly two-thirds of these deaths – 1,612 – were among men, with a significantly higher death rate of 9.9 per 100,000, compared with 5.2 deaths per 100,000 females.
Among men, security guards had the highest Covid-19 death rate, with 45.7 deaths per 100,000 (63 deaths). Taxi drivers and chauffeurs had a rate of 36.4 (76 deaths) and chefs a rate of 35.9 (31 deaths).