Expansion of asymptomatic testing: access and next steps

08 March 2021

The government is expanding asymptomatic coronavirus testing to ensure as many people as possible who need to leave home for work can access testing. The testing routes available to housing association workforces are set out below.

Current testing routes

Currently, asymptomatic testing is accessed through two main channels: workplace testing (provided by employers to their staff) and community testing (provided through local authority sites).

Community testing

All local authorities should have set up community testing sites by the end of February. Testing will be prioritised according to local needs and will primarily be for people who need to leave home to work and cannot access testing through their workplace.

This includes:

  • Small public sector organisations such as those working in local government or that have been commissioned to deliver services on behalf of a local authority.
  • Charities and voluntary groups.
  • Small private sector businesses providing key public services who are unable to implement workplace testing such waste management, public transport, taxi firms or power and water companies.
  • Small businesses (fewer than 50 staff), sole traders or self-employed workers and medium-sized businesses (between 50 and 250 staff) unable to access workplace testing practically.
  • Education or childcare settings not covered by testing in schools including private nurseries, children’s homes or childminders.
  • ‘Hard-to-reach’ communities at higher risk of infection.

Organisations wishing to use the community testing route should use the postcode checker to find out more about local community testing sites.

Workplace testing

Asymptomatic workplace testing is already in place in some sectors including healthcare, adult social care and education. Workplace testing is also available in parts of the supported housing sector.

Workplace testing is now available to all businesses regardless of the number of employees. Visit their website to find out more information and register your interest. You will then be invited to a webinar by by Test and Trace to find out more details and decide whether to take part.

Under this model, testing is delivered through workplace sites. Where on-site testing is impractical the government currently says the route should be via community testing and suggests organisations direct their workforces to the postcode checker to find out how to access testing locally.

NHS Test and Trace are running a series of webinars for interested parties to find out more about workplace testing and see if they might want to sign up:

Q&A webinars

On Tuesdays and Thursdays (15:00 – 15:55) until 11 March organisations can also take part in a Q&A webinar to find out more information.

For general queries about how these options for testing might work in practice for workforces in your organisation or sector, please contact: MHCLGTestingEnquiries@communities.gov.uk

Longer-term plans for home testing

The government intends to roll out home testing as another option for workforces to access testing. This delivery model is still being worked through.

We have highlighted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that home testing would be beneficial for our membership as part of a range of options in a wider strategy for infection control and maintaining frontline service delivery. We have also reported that many organisations in our sector have dispersed workforces, so a more flexible option including home testing is likely to be the most appropriate. MHCLG will make the case for this option to be rolled out more widely as soon as possible.

Who to speak to

Suzannah Young, Policy Officer