Legally forcing dozens of workers to receive a blow raises huge legal and moral questions. Ministers have previously called similar ideas “discriminatory”.
The Cabinet subcommittee document warns that a “large” number of social workers may resign if the change is made, and that successful legal action on human rights grounds may be possible. It clearly indicates that a similar legal requirement is envisaged for some frontline health workers, such as those in the services, but no decision has been taken on this matter.
The document, written by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, is about 15 pages long and is titled “Vaccination as a condition for deployment in adult care and health facilities”.
Its main line reads: “The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State [Mr Hancock] have repeatedly discussed progress in vaccinating social workers against Covid-19 and agreed – in order to achieve a much greater safety position for care recipients – to put in place legislation requiring vaccinations among staff . ”
The sentence makes it clear that the two have decided in principle to change the law to require the vaccination of social workers, even as the details are worked out. Government officials are discussing what the legislation would look like, with consultation on a final detailed proposal expected.
The legal change would likely only affect England, with health policy being the responsibility of the decentralized administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Nursing homes have been among the sectors hardest hit by the Covid pandemic. In the past year, around one in 14 people in UK nursing homes has died after contracting the virus.