CALLS are growing for Bolton Council join other Greater Manchester authorities and back a campaign to protect key workers.

Bolton Council is one of just a handful authorities in Greater Manchester not to have backed the Care Workers vs Covid 19 campaign which asks councils to make four pledges, from providing PPE, testing and protecting pay and employment if shielding.

Labour councillors put forward a motion calling for Bolton to back the campaign at a meeting of the full council, but time restraints meant it was never debated.

The Bolton News:

And members of Bolton Unison branch held a socially distanced rally urging the authority to sign up to the campaign.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh said the council had proactively promoted the campaign to care homes within Bolton ­— but stressed majority of care homes are privately run.

In a joint statement released by the Cabinet Member for Adult Services. Cllr Andrew Morgan and Cllr Greenhalgh, they state: "Bolton has promoted the campaign to all providers and encouraged Care Homes to utilise the infection prevention control grant to cover the areas as highlighted, the full care home support plan for Bolton has been published on our website along with the letters sent.

"Only three out of over 40 care homes in the borough are run by the Council. We can not give guarantees in areas not in our control."

The Bolton News:

Bolton Labour Leader, Cllr Nick Peel, said: “I contacted the Leader of the Council, David Greenhalgh, to ask if the Council was prepared to join other northern authorities and back the campaign, in support of our care workers who are on the front line in the struggle against Covid 19. I was disappointed when I received the reply to say that they would not back it.

"The Tories are refusing to sign up to the four pledges on the basis that the council does not directly run some care services, but with respect, this really is fudging the issue.

"Obviously, where we don’t run care services, we should instead use our influence to encourage those that do run the services to back our care workers.

“This decision will anger a lot of people, but we will not leave it there. Labour tabled a motion asking the council to demonstrate with action rather than words that they will give care workers the support they need. Unfortunately we didn’t get to that motion, before the meeting ended. However, this will be firmly on the agenda at the next meeting in September, and we are calling on the other parties to put pressure on the Tory Council by voting for our motion."

The statement by Cllr Morgan and Cllr Greenhalgh, added: ” We, as a council and an administration, are totally committed to supporting the social care and home care sectors. They have been quite rightly recognised for their phenomenal contribution during the COVID 19 pandemic, working throughout the crisis on the front line caring for one of our most vulnerable cohorts."

The Bolton News:

Andrea Egan, Bolton Unison Branch Secretary said: “We have all seen the vital work of care workers in recent months. Care workers provide essential care and support to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. That’s why we are supporting the Care Workers Vs Covid-19 Campaign which aims to ensure that all care workers get all the support they need.

""We are bitterly disappointed that the Care Workers vs COVID-19 motion wasn't discussed at the full council meeting on 15th July as we had hoped”.

She added: “Care workers need urgent action now to give them the support and resources they need to combat the coronavirus. It is an insult to courage and commitment of out town’s care workers that this matter will now be deferred to the next full council meeting. They cannot keep waiting and waiting for the vital support they so desperately need. That’s why we’re calling on Bolton Council to convene an emergency full council meeting at the earliest opportunity to discuss the Care Workers vs COVID-19 motion and deal with any other outstanding business. It’s the very least that our dedicated care workers deserve. I sincerely hope that councillors from across the board can come together quickly and sort this out."

Ryan Quick, Bolton Unison Organiser added: “Several local councils across the North West including, Salford, Manchester, Wigan, Oldham, Trafford, Tameside and many others have already signed up to the Care Workers vs Covid-19.Several other local councils are likely to follow suit. "

The Bolton News:

The Care Workers vs COVID-19 campaign, Launched by Unison North West, calls for urgent action to be taken by local councils and other organisations to protect vital care workers, the elderly, and those most at risk to the spread of coronavirus.

The aims of the campaign are to:

1. Protect Health – Priority testing for care workers to limit the spread of disease to vulnerable patients and service users. Guarantee all essential training and personal protection equipment (PPE) to all frontline workers (e.g. goggles, masks, hand sanitisers, thermometers) in line with Public Health England guidance.

2. Protect Pay – Full normal pay for all those required by government guidance to self-isolate or who become ill because of COVID-19, in order to prevent unnecessary spread of infection. This includes all staff on zero-hour contracts, bank/relief contracts or multiple contracts.

3. Protect Employment – Ensure no-one is dismissed or laid-off for staying at home to care for themselves or their family. Absence due to COVID-19 should be excluded from absence management triggers.

4. Protect Families – Carers leave on full-pay for workers caring for a dependent who has COVID-19 or for whom childcare is unavailable.

The Bolton News:

What the Conservatives Say

Priority testing for care workers: Across GM and in Bolton we continue to make every effort possible to offer this for care staff, as you are aware we have had a local test centre at BWFC and we were one of the first areas to get a local site in the NW, we are now moving this to be a longer term sustainable walk in facility and this will be confirmed in the coming weeks. In addition we also prioritised testing at the Manchester airport site however this route is now through the national portal, we have secured the Military mobile testing units to come to Bolton and have the further booked in thoughour July and August. For care homes we were able to offer a local pathway for residents prior to any PHE pathway and this has proved invaluable supporting our providers with outbreak management. We are now also supporting all care homes to access the whole home and staff testing and testing residents before admission.

2. Guarantee essential PPE for all frontline workers – Bolton along with GM were at the forefront of obtaining supplies for our care sector and from the start provided advice, guidance, training and emergency equipment for our care sector, whilst this has been challenging no provider was left without supplies and we delivered PPE within hours of requests. Social care providers are asked daily via local sitreps to raise any concerns regarding levels of PPE and difficulties accessing stock, we have also shared procurement information helping providers identify where there is stock to buy and what rates. This will continue to be an area we will monitor carefully and escalate if the situation becomes difficult once again.

3. Protection of pay and other terms and conditions of employment including carer’s leave and sickness absence – as local authorities do not directly employ the vast majority of social care staff we will not be in a position to sign the pledge as we cannot offer those guarantees. The expectation of commissioned providers is that the additional funds though the ‘Infection control grant’ should be used to support front-line workers, we have shared with providers the national guidance on how to use the funds, our expectations on evidencing how they have spent their share and promoting the campaign to support your aspirations with regards partners paying full pay to staff when they are in isolation or suffering from Covid-19.Staff off sick or unable to work across the care sector is now as low as 6% and we have no homes with residents with Covidas of this week.

We commit to continue to work with the sector to achieve the best outcomes for both staff and residents and their families.