Staff briefings

Wednesday 19 January - COVID-19 update


You will be aware that we have been taking steps to prepare for significant staff absences due to the anticipated impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Whilst the impact of Omicron has been lower than expected to date, we do currently have a 27% staff absence across SB Cares, taking into account absence and vacancies (increasing to 38% across support workers only, again including vacancies) and increased absence generally across the Council. Even as COVID-19 cases reduce it is likely that it will take some time for these pressures to ease.

Whilst the implications of absences have been managed effectively to date, operating at reduced levels does puts significant strain on services and a depleted workforce and we are therefore taking additional steps to be prepared. This is not only to be prepared should the situation worsen in the short term, but for any future spikes in absences.

As part of these preparations we have twice canvassed colleagues to come forward if they would like to be retrained to work in social care at this time. This is a voluntary ask. We have also directly approached some staff, who aren’t currently delivering critical frontline services, again asking for volunteers. These measures have all been discussed with the Trade Unions.

To be clear, we are not stopping, reducing or withdrawing any services at this time. However, we are trying to prepare for a worsening position with regards to our staff sickness levels, and train some staff to support our critical front line care services if needed. It takes around two weeks to provide the necessary training hence the need to identify staff as soon as possible to build up a pool to be deployed as required.

Your continued support in this respect is vital, however we are not simply looking at internal solutions. We are also working closely with Borders College and have issued an appeal across the Community Planning Partnership too.

We will also be issuing public communications later today to encourage local people looking for employment or additional hours to consider social care to help play their part in both the continued COVID-19 response but also in the longer term. There are lots of employment opportunities in care with the Council, so we would be grateful if you can use your networks to promote these vacancies and opportunities.

We will continue to keep you updated, and once again thank you for your continued support and efforts at this challenging time.

Jenni Craig
Director of Resilient Communities