Socialist Worker

Disastrous Tory policy endangers shielders

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2716

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Shielding people have been put in danger by the Tory plans  (Pic: pikist.com)


Government ministers have ‘paused’ a vital measure to protect the most vulnerable—without any evidence

Shielders—people advised to take extra precautions during the coronavirus outbreak—fear for their jobs and safety after the government “paused” shielding advice.

Many shielders—who were advised to stay at home—say the pause, combined with the easing of lockdown, is putting their health at risk.

Liz was advised to go into ­shielding with her wife, who she cares for, at the start of lockdown. She says the easing of lockdown has made ­everyday life riskier and more difficult.

“I was told by specialists at the beginning of shielding, ‘your wife will most probably die if she catches this virus’.

“Since the end of June when the government started to encourage those shielding to get out of the home more it’s become harder and harder to social distance, and there has been less help on offer,” she told Socialist Worker.

“We were—and still are—­reliant on volunteers and services to do shopping and collect prescriptions and such like.”

Paused

She added, “Ultimately, like many other shielders, we feel that the advice given by the government is vague, unhelpful and isn’t ­understood by the general population.

“We don’t understand why ­shielding is being paused whilst the numbers of those testing positive rise.”

The pause also means that many shielders will now be pressured to return to work, putting them at risk.

Daniel, a support worker, says he had been furloughed—but was asked to go back to work almost as soon as the pause was announced.

“I got an email on Thursday ­telling me my furlough ends on Friday,” he told Socialist Worker.

“It said something like, ‘We are happy to announce your furlough will be ending.’ It said they ­appreciate we may by anxious, but they have things in place to ­protect us.

“It also said we could have phased return to work using our annual leave. Yeah, thanks for that.”

He added, “Some of the people we work with aren’t often able to take care of things for themselves. 

So I don’t see how they can put things in place to keep us safe if they’ve got Covid-19. It’s really quite worrying.

Daniel said the pause has forced him to have to choose between ­keeping his job, or keeping safe.

"I’m thinking of refusing to go back. But they’ll probably terminate my employment or just refuse to pay me.

“It was a battle to get myself on the furlough scheme in the first place. Now they’re saying they can’t justify keeping me on furlough because shielding has been paused.

“I could try and find a job where I work from home but it’s difficult at the moment. Do I keep working and risk my health, or refuse to work and put myself at economic risk?"


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