Vaccines and testing

We are working to ensure that the government’s vaccination programme continues to prioritise all forms of supported housing, for both residents and staff, and that it is effective in practice and delivered consistently across the country. We have been working with MHCLG to make the case for all public-facing housing association staff to be considered as part of the Phase 2 vaccination prioritisation process. The Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) has now announced that it considers that the best way to protect individuals working in jobs with a potentially higher risk of exposure to coronavirus is to use an age-based programme because it is simple to deliver.

On March 11, the government announced local teams could offer vaccinations to people in their area who are homeless or rough sleepers. These people now have priority alongside cohort six in phase one of the vaccine deployment programme. The JCVI recommended that local teams take a ‘pragmatic approach’ to the dosing schedule considering the likelihood of follow up for these groups. Members should contact their local teams to discuss how this can work most effectively locally.

We are working with government to ensure efficient and flexible delivery of a range of asymptomatic staff testing options, as part of a wider strategy of infection control and maintaining frontline service delivery, and that housing associations are supported to deliver this themselves where appropriate. 

We have the support of MHCLG in this work. 

After the government’s winter coronavirus plan was announced in November 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) set out plans in early December 2020 for the roll out of vaccinations across the country.

Priority for vaccinations will be given according to age (and health condition from 65 years of age and below). There will be a community rollout to help those who find it difficult to travel to vaccination centres.

Staff and residents will be able to decide whether they receive the vaccine and providers will need to assess what this means for their working arrangements. The government has set out its priorities for targeted testing.

New operational guidance on testing and vaccination, to be set up by mid-January, now includes frontline social care workers directly working with vulnerable people who need care and support in any setting including supported housing. The Standard Operating Procedure published on 14 January clarifies which roles this applies to and includes material for communicating eligibility for the vaccine to staff. 

NHS Trusts are being asked to work with local authorities to deliver tests and vaccines to frontline social care workers. We recommend that supported housing providers contact their local authorities to make sure they are aware of this directive and are included in the rollout.

We are undertaking a piece of work to understand how the testing and vaccine delivery is taking place in practice, so that we can both share experiences to help other housing associations make the case to their local authority, and support their staff in their decision around receiving the vaccine, as well as raise any delivery issues with government officials.

We are aware that there are varying views and practice around whether or not to make vaccination compulsory for frontline staff. Our current advice to housing associations, who are best placed to identify their staff members’ needs, would be to seek independent legal advice on this matter and to implement thorough risk assessments and consider alternative working options for staff who are not currently vaccinated. We are closely monitoring developments in this area and will update our members if there are any changes to current policy.

If you have already been contacted by your local authority to deliver testing or vaccines, please get in touch to share an example of your experience.

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care have set up a campaign resource centre and produced information on the vaccine that will be useful to supported and retirement housing providers looking to prepare staff and residents for receiving the vaccine, including guidance, leaflets and consent forms. 

Who to speak to

Sue Ramsden, Policy Leader