Disabled activists say the government has yet again ignored the support needs of disabled people during the pandemic crisis, after omitting social care workers from a list of travellers who can enter the UK without self-isolating for 14 days.
The Home Office rules list those groups that may be able to enter the UK from abroad without having to self-isolate for a fortnight before they start work.
The rules, which came into effect on 8 June, allow exemptions for many diplomats, defence contractors, coach drivers, seasonal agricultural workers, sewerage workers, offshore oil workers, aerospace engineers, and other specialists in the energy, broadcasting, postal and transport industries.
They also allow health or care professionals travelling to the UK to provide “essential healthcare” to avoid self-isolating for 14 days if they are staying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
But this only applies to those who can prove they will be working for an NHS trust, independent healthcare provider or independent social care provider, and who can provide proof of professional registration with a UK-based regulator.
They must also be coming to provide “healthcare” rather than social care.
This means the exemptions omit social care workers who are coming from abroad to work as personal assistants for disabled people, as they will not be working for a care provider, and those planning to work for domiciliary care agencies, as they cannot register themselves with a regulator.
There is still no system of professional registration for social care workers in the UK.
The new rules will also affect those returning to existing jobs in the UK after spells in their own countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It even appears to rule out all social care workers, because of the reference to “healthcare”.
Those breaching the rules in England and Wales could face fines of £1,000 or even a prosecution and a potentially “unlimited fine”.
The flaws in the guidelines have been raised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).
This week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) appeared to suggest that social care workers would have to use “annual or unpaid leave” so they can self-isolate for 14 days, or survive for a fortnight without pay if they do not have any such entitlement.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “The quarantine system is informed by science, backed by the public and designed to help prevent a devastating second wave of this disease.
“The list of limited exemptions has been agreed by all government departments in consultation with their stakeholders to ensure critical supplies and services can continue and is subject to regular review.”
She added: “The regulations are clear – anyone who comes to the UK from overseas will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, unless they are one of the few groups who are exempt.
“If staff who are not eligible for an exemption do choose to travel, it should be a local decision on whether they need to use annual or unpaid leave.”
She declined to comment on whether the guidelines showed the government had – again – ignored the needs of disabled people.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of DPAC, said: “This is absolutely useless as an answer to the question of who or what care workers are supposed to register with, and effectively means that a large proportion of the UK care workforce will be unable to return to work in the UK [without self-isolating for a fortnight].
“This is in spite of the fact that over the weekend we have been informed that Tom, Dick and Sally can swan off for a holiday in a number of randomly-selected countries and return to the UK without having to self-isolate at all.
“There is no logic and definitely no science involved in any of this.
“It is obvious that once again disabled people’s needs have been ignored totally by this pathetic excuse for a government.”
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
Picture: Home Office headquarters in Westminster
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