Council staff to be re-deployed in 'critical' coronavirus crisis roles

Date published: 02 April 2020

Local council staff are being re-deployed in ‘critical’ roles during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered that public places should close to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Hundreds of local authority-run facilities from gyms to museums across the country have had to shut as a result.

Council bosses across the UK are now carrying out skills surveys to see whether they can move employees towards caring for the vulnerable, running crematoriums and collecting bins.

Public sector unions are urging councils not to pressurise workers into taking on new roles and to carry out strict risk assessments for those re-deployed.

Rochdale Borough Council leader Allen Brett said: “We are taking action to ensure that staff can be re-deployed to areas where there are gaps or where extra people are needed to help fight coronavirus.

“Managers have identified staff who could be made available for other duties and we have asked people if they would like to volunteer to be re-deployed. We’re ensuring volunteers have experience and skills in the area they’re being re-deployed to or that they are being paired with an established existing member of the team who can help them fit into their temporary roles. In some areas we are backfilling posts, for example to cover gaps created when staff with care experience are moved to the frontline.

“We are also moving additional staff to our new community response hubs, answering residents’ enquiries, distributing food parcels and providing other vital community support. During this extremely challenging time, we are also boosting our adult care services with additional support.

“Training and personal protection equipment is being provided where necessary. I would also like to praise our staff again who are ensuring we do all we possibly can to help.”

Unison, which represents 750,000 council staff across the UK has particular concern over people moving into refuse collection and adult social care.

“There are certain areas in adult social care that have particularly high-risk, vulnerable patients,” said its head of local government and education John Richards.

“You may have people who have similar caring skill-sets in that field. But you wouldn’t want someone who has no knowledge or understanding of those conditions.”

He added that any staff being asked to take on a more skilled job during the pandemic should be paid accordingly.

GMB’s national officer Karen Leonard said: “Any role changes should be a reasonable alternative that matches the skill set and knowledge as closely as possible.

"Everyone wants to help, but safety has to be a priority. Let's apply some common sense."

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