POOL cars that are not being properly cleaned, drop-in visits to help out at Isle of Wight Council-run care facilities, and a message to ‘carry hand soap’ between clients' homes are among claims made by local authority carers, who say they are worried about the safety of their clients and themselves.

Reacting, the Isle of Wight Council says it has now allocated a member of staff to clean the pool cars and is supplying extra safety protection wear.

Scroll down to read the Council's statement in full

Council employees, working with vulnerable and elderly people on the Isle of Wight, say they believe they have been putting themselves and the people they care for at risk, amid new health and safety requirements over the coronavirus pandemic.

Isle of Wight County Press:

An employee, who did not want to be named, said: “They’re supposed to provide face masks, but they haven’t.

“We’re told to take hand sanitisers to the post room at County Hall to fill them up. When it runs out, we’ve been told to carry a bar of soap in a bag, from one client’s house to another. Some staff are concerned.

“We’re sharing cars. They’re not washed in between. The only cleaning is if we stop at the garage and hoover them out. I’m putting hand gel on my hands, over the steering while, over the gearstick and over the handbrake."

Isle of Wight County Press:

This message was published in a newsletter for carers

In between outreach visits, carers drop-in to help out at Isle of Wight Council-run care facilities, including the Adelaide Resource Centre in Ryde. 

An employee told the County Press that the drop-in visits should be reconsidered, to protect clients and staff: “We said we shouldn't be going into the Adelaide. The clients are quite ill, some of them, but we’re stopping at petrol stations, using public toilets and washing our hands. Day care’s being brought in from outside. Some of the visitors haven’t been wearing PPE safety workwear.

“A lot of people we see are on medication for different ailments and nine out of ten times they are aged above 70 years old.

"It’s the communication that’s been terrible. We realise a service needs to be provided, but it’s the way it’s been handled. They’re making out they’re concerned."

The government has told people aged over 70 years old to 'shield' themselves for 12 weeks, to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Reacting, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said: “As a matter of course, our community support workers clean their pool vehicles as part of their working week and during their paid working hours. This is part of our usual infection control measures. We are aware that, with the current situation, it has been challenging for some staff to keep on top of this, so we have allocated a staff member to get the cleaning back up to date.

“We are also supplying additional Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to the vehicles to ensure that the community support workers are protected – and protect others.  

“Our community support workers have always supported their  colleagues in our two resource centres. Community support workers can sometimes have “gaps” in their rotas between the clients they are supporting at home and when this happens. So they can be asked to provide additional capacity to the Adelaide or the Gouldings for a few hours, if that is needed. The incidences of community staff going into the resource centres has been reducing steadily over recent months as they are called upon to support increasing numbers of  vulnerable people in the community. 

"Community support workers have the appropriate PPE supplied to them and are instructed to wear it at our office as well as at both of the resource centres – in exactly the same way as they do when going into different people’s homes.

"All care workers are experienced in terms of reducing the risks of cross infection, and that has never been more important than currently. That is why our community support workers are instructed to wear the PPE in all settings.    

"Staff are being encouraged to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. Government guidance is that the use of alcohol gel is not a replacement to handwashing with soap and water, but an addition if soap and running water is not available.

"The council and the service are ensuring national guidance is available to all managers and appropriate elements have already been cascaded to our community support workers working with vulnerable people. On Friday last week, a pack of the national information and guidance on infection control, PPE and national guidance for homecare providers was issued to all front line staff. On Friday last week, a pack of the national information and guidance on infection control, PPE and national guidance for homecare providers was issued to all front line staff.

“Any staff member who is concerned should speak with their line manager."

The Isle of Wight Council said it acknowledged that during the coronavirus crisis, a huge amount was being asked of its health and social care professionals and said it was grateful for their ongoing commitment and hard work, under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.