Town Hall chiefs are being urged to use some of their £9 million emergency Government cash handout to protect and support care home workers.

Andrea Egan, Bolton branch secretary of the public service trade union Unison, says she has contacted Bolton Council to raise the plight of care home workers, who she says are suffering financially and through the lack of PPE equipment in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Bolton Council says it is doing everything it can to support care home workers and the sector including providing equipment and guidance to care home owners ­— but has no powers over private terms and conditions

The trade union says it has received over 3,500 messages nationally from union members around the country with concerns about the lack of personal protective equipment.

Unison says many of these messages have come from care home workers who say they are anxious and frightened. Concerns include a lack of masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitiser.

READ > Multiple deaths linked to virus at Bolton care homes as 'forgotten' frontline heroes plead for help

It comes after at least nine deaths in Bolton's care homes have been linked to coronavirus, with that figure likely to rise.

Unison argued that lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is having a direct effect on the transmission of the coronavirus and that this “will inevitably increase lead to more untimely deaths”.

Mrs Egan said: “I have written to Bolton Council on three separate occasions to ask that more is done to assist workers in the private sector where there are real financial difficulties.

“For anyone earning over £120 per week and off sick for more than four days in a row, they are entitled to statutory sick pay of just £95.85 per week.

“This applies not only to people who are off sick but also those classed as shielding a vulnerable family member.

“The care sector relies on an army of low paid staff. This is a workforce that has traditionally been undervalued and underpaid.

“Now we are seeing this same workforce under protected increasing the risks to themselves and residents alike.”

“Workers shouldn’t feel that they have no choice but to keep on working if they start to feel unwell and start to have mild symptoms. The risks are too great we need to ensure that workers get right support so that they don’t end up putting themselves and others at risk.

“We firmly believe that all workers should have full access to PPE and all the support that they desperately need. Families have a right to know that their elderly and disabled loved ones are being cared for safely.”

Andrea said: “In reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg. With a lack of testing in care homes, it’s now widely accepted that the real number of care home deaths will be much, much higher. “One of the big issues in care homes has been lack of access to Personal Protective Equipment which workers desperately need to keep residents and themselves safe. It is a national scandal and much more needs to be done to protect care home workers.”

A council spokesman said: “Care home workers are on the front line of this crisis and their hard work and dedication during this pandemic cannot be underestimated.

“The additional government money is specifically to address the financial impact of covid-19 across all council services.

“We are using the funding for different things, including supporting care providers and care staff. It is helping with adult and children’s social care costs and co-ordinating support for the vulnerable.

“We are also supporting care home providers and the wider social care sector to get access to the equipment they need.

“There is a close supportive relationship with our providers and across our care sector who are doing an excellent job in responding to this crisis.”

The spokesman added: “We are in regular contact with them providing guidance and mutual aid to help where we can.

“The government has also set up a number of schemes to support businesses which are struggling financially and to protect jobs.”