New data has revealed “significantly raised” COVID-19 deaths among men and women working in social care.
The ONS data up to April 20 reveals there were 23.4 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 males (45 deaths) and 9.6 deaths per 100,000 females (86 deaths) amongst care workers.
The ONS commented: “In our analysis, rates of death involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) among male and female social care workers were found to be statistically significantly higher than the rates of death involving COVID-19 among those of the same age and sex in England and Wales.”
Care workers and home carers accounted for most of the deaths (98 out of 131, or 74.8%), which also included social workers, managers of residential care institutions and care escorts.
Amongst men, caring, leisure and other service occupations had the second highest rate of death involving COVID-19 per occupation at 17.9 deaths per 100,000 males, or 72 deaths.
For women, caring, leisure and other service occupations was the only one of the nine major occupational groups with a statistically significant higher mortality rate of deaths involving COVID-19 than the general population at 7.5 deaths per 100,000, equivalent to 130 deaths.
Most of these deaths (88) were among personal caring occupations, at a rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000. These deaths were largely from female care workers and home care workers (12.7 deaths per 100,000 females, or 66 deaths).
Ben Humberstone, Deputy Director for Health Analysis and Life Events, commented: “Even though our analysis suggests that social care occupations have a lower exposure to disease than healthcare workers, both men and women working in social care had significantly raised rates of COVID-19 deaths. There are many different reasons why this could be the case and further work will be needed to look at this.”
Lola McEvoy GMB Organiser said: “This data is harrowing. Our social care key workers are facing the maximum risk for the minimum wage and minimum sick pay. They are undervalued and have faced down a pandemic wholly unprotected for weeks. To see in black and white that social care workers are over represented in those who’ve sadly lost their life to Covid19 means a radical reform of our social care sector is critical going forward. We must evaluate how and why one of the lowest paid workforces in the UK was neglected so badly, and that this led to so many people losing their loved ones.”
Kathryn Smith, Chief Executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, added: “These are shocking figures. When the lockdown started and cases of COVID-19 increased, people were quite rightly worried for those working in the NHS. It appears that, in the first month or so of the pandemic, social care workers, despite putting their lives at risk and continuing to make a difference to people’s lives daily, were unfortunately a forgotten front line. What was needed then and what’s needed now is consistent and continuous testing; and the provision of protective equipment with training on how to wear it.
“There is a some hope though. These figures are up until 20 April and we at SCIE hope that the increased awareness of social care amongst policy-makers and the population at large will see care providers having easier access to protective equipment; and for testing to be ongoing and continuous in care settings. The care and support workforce have acted like heroes but they also deserve to see these rapidly figures decline as quickly as possible.”