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The Annual General Meeting of the Branch will be held on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 at 12.30pm until 1.30pm and will take place online due to the current health protection measures.

The AGM is an important meeting for all members. It provides an opportunity for you to ask questions about the work of the union, you can see how branch finances have been used and you can help to set policy and agree priorities for the year ahead.

The AGM also provides an opportunity for you to elect officials to lead the branch and represent your interests.

At a later date we will provide details on how to access the preferred platform for the online meeting. If you are unable to access you can ‘dial in' to the meeting using a phone number and code.

The Branch has also booked the venue at Dudley Town Hall but this will only proceed if restrictions are lifted and we are able to demonstrate that it is safe.

Access Requirements

We recognise that to ensure all of our members can fully participate it may be necessary to make adjustments, if you require any adjustment please contact the branch and we will discuss your requirements.

We hope you will come along to the AGM we're certainly very keen to see you.

Kind Regards

Joanne Prescott
Branch Secretary – Membership Services & Admin.


Jan 21, 2021

If you’re worried about the cost of turning the heating on this winter, our winter fuel grants scheme will be launched on 25 January.

Grants of up to £200 will be available – a huge increase on the usual cap of £40.

Members on low incomes who are financially struggling will be eligible to apply. We welcome applications from members whose income has been affected by COVID-19. Online applications will open here on 25 January so please save the date.


Jan 21, 2021

Invitation to the:

Holocaust Memorial Day Service
At 12 noon
On Friday 29 th January
Please join online at http://bit.ly/Dudley-Holocaust-Memorial


Ian Austin, Lord Austin of Dudley, and Dudley College Students’ Union organise the borough’s annual commemoration which is attended by VIPs, faith leaders, members of the community and students from across the Dudley borough. The service in the past has been hosted at Dudley College’s Great Hall, however, due to the current situation, this year's service will take place online. Anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer will be able to join the event by accessing the link above.

With the support of Ian Austin and the Holocaust Educational Trust, we have the great honour of being joined by Holocaust Survivor, Manfred Goldberg BEM, who is the special guest speaker at the service. Manfred was born 1930 in Germany. He and his mother and brother were deported in 1941 to a ghetto before he was sent to a forced labour camp and then onto Stutthof concentration camp.

Manfred was awarded the BEM in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in 2018 in recognition for his work in Holocaust education. It is humbling that he and other survivors now spend their time teaching people about the Holocaust. We will also hear recounts from a student who took part in last year’s HET Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

The service is an opportunity to ensure that the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides are not forgotten, trivialised or denied.

We hope you will be able to join us for this commemorative service, to remember and continue the campaign against injustice, hatred and discrimination which has always been central to the role of Students' Unions and Trade Unions. We  welcome you to share this invitation with your friends, family and colleagues.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Lawley
Dudley College Students’ Union President 2020-21


Jan 21, 2021

During the current desperate public health situation, it is imperative that the way schools operate during lockdown does not make matters worse.

This supplementary joint union checklist is provided to help schools review their risk assessments and implement measures which firstly reflect the known greater transmissibility of the new variant and secondly meet the specific requirements of partial opening.


Jan 19, 2021

Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London
SW1P 3BT

5 January 2021

Sent by email:   Secretary of State: Sec-OF-STATE-Diary.PS@education.gov.uk 

Dear Gavin,

In recent exchanges with the government about our advice to members we were assured that it is the strong wish of the Government to work with our unions to ensure that all education staff continue to work in as safe a way as possible.

Our members who are being asked to go into schools and nurseries are reporting considerable concerns about the situation they are being placed in.  There are notable differences from the situation of the first lockdown, including the following:

-          Nursery staff are very concerned that they are being required to work with full classes of children, with no social distancing, when the rest of the education sector is open only to vulnerable children and key worker children.  They do not understand why they are being asked to go into work while others in primaries such as reception staff are not.  Full nursery classes undermine the Government’s aim of reducing the spread of the virus as adults and pupils mingle at the gates and in schools.

We note that Professor Calum Semple, a virologist and member of SAGE, when asked by the BBC if he could give any idea why early years settings were remaining open when schools were not, said ‘No, I can't’, and said that the decision to do so may be ‘political’ as it was not ‘a scientific one’

You said, in your statement in the House today, in answer to Kate Green’s question, that you had listened to scientific advice when you made the decision that early years settings would be fully open. We would be grateful if you could now inform us of the content of that advice and its source. This should provide reassurance to our members in early years settings that their health and safety is being properly protected by these arrangements.

We note also that:

-          The Government’s wider definitions of ‘vulnerable pupils’ and those classed as key workers has led to significantly larger groups of pupils attending schools.

-          pupils are being merged into larger mixed age classes – which clearly increases the danger of the risk of the spread of infection between pupils and between pupils and staff

-          Staff are being asked to work across bubbles and being asked to work full time rather than being placed on rotas.

-          despite additional risks from the new Covid, variant which is estimated to be approximately 50% more transmissive, some schools have not updated their risk assessments.

In some schools, combinations of these points mean that government plans to lower the spread of the virus will be significantly undermined.

We would ask for an urgent meeting to discuss these issues and find ways to ensure that guidance from the Department for Education addresses these issues.

Yours sincerely

Mary Bousted                                
Joint General Secretary

Kevin Courtney
Joint General Secretary

Jon Richards
National Secretary
Education, Local Government, Police and Justice
UNISON


Jan 8, 2021

Please see the government advice below for the autumn term and Covid.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak


Jan 8, 2021

Do all staff need to be at school during lockdown?

In our opinion No. 

The aim of the government’s decision which is now law, is to reduce contacts in order to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. One of the main reasons for this decision is that schools were acting as vectors and spreading the virus. This in turn was and is placing massive pressures on the NHS, which is at breaking point. Hence protecting lives and protecting the NHS is the number one priority. The government guidance during this period of lockdown is for people to work from home unless it is not possible to do so.

The government guidance also states that public sector employees working in essential services, including childcare or education, should continue to go into work. We believe that this means that schools and colleges will need to ensure they have sufficient staff on-site to operate safely and support the on-site provision for the children of critical workers and vulnerable pupils and students but that all other staff should work from home wherever possible.

The safest and fairest way for staffing provision for vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers would be for employers to implement a rota system.  These would operate across the various groups of staff within schools, teachers, classroom-based support staff, office-based support staff, site staff etc, also ensuring that there is sufficient safeguarding, first aid and cleaning provision. 

The Prime Minister announced on 4th January that schools and colleges will remain open to vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers only.  All other pupils and students are to learn remotely. The government definition of a Vulnerable child has been updated by the government since the first lockdown. Most children in SEN provision or PRU’s  have an Education Health care plan, hence the classification of all these pupils under government advice means that they are all vulnerable and the provider remains open. UNISON is arguing that only those children assessed  as vulnerable in their COVID EHC plan should be attending the school. For example those at those at risk of abuse etc should they stay at home, and those children of critical workers. UNISON has written to the Secretary of state about this matter.

It would be reasonable for employers to ask for staff who would prefer to work on-site.  This could in-turn help to facilitate working from home for those staff who are vulnerable, or may have problems arranging childcare, such as using grandparents who are now shielding again. NB it is important to note that Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) staff who are on the shielding list have been advised not to attend the workplace.

As the aim of national lockdown and the move to remote learning is to prevent the spread of the virus, it would not be sensible to expect all staff to attend on-site, even if this is to deliver remote learning from a classroom.  Staff would still need to use shared facilities such as toilets and their attendance on-site would result in more cleaning requirements, meaning even more staff would be required to attend.  This would defeat the aim of the government action.  By implementing a rota system, employers will ensure that all roles required on-site are covered and they would keep the number of on-site staff to a safe minimum.

https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/key-issues/covid-19-closures/#:~:text=UNISON%20believes%20that%20early%20years,recommend%20that%20they%20do%20so.


Jan 8, 2021

Advice for UNISON members working in special schools and colleges, and alternative education settings – January 2021

Context:

With the new variant of the virus shown to being considerably more transmissible than the version prevalent in 2020 the previous risk assessment will no longer be fit for purpose.

As a matter of priority, specialist schools and colleges focus on:

  • Revisiting and improving the previous risk assessments and building time into the beginning of term for this to take place
  • Risk assessments should be updated for the premises as a whole and for individual children and young people with more complex needs
  • Time must be built in for extra training of staff in adopting the new measures identified.
  • Allowing time for pupils and their parents/carers to be inducted into the new processes.

The DfE has published their definition of vulnerable children and young people who should continue to attend schools and colleges, even in areas subject to the most stringent restrictions. This definition includes the vast majority of pupils in special schools and colleges and alternative education settings, however a pupil with an EHC plan would not automatically be required to attend school – some pupils may have significant health needs that would mean they would be put at risk by attending.

We agree to send the same advice to staff in special schools that was sent to those in primary schools and early years settings. We accept that special schools should be open only to those children identified as particularly vulnerable in their COVID assessed EHC plan.

Leaders in special education settings must follow public health advice including:

  • A revised and updated setting-based risk assessment
  • Revised and updated risk assessments for individual pupils
  • Revised and updated risk assessments for staff members with characteristics that result in them being more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19

Advice:

UNISON advice is that members should agree to support vulnerable pupils on a rota basis provided the following conditions have been met:

  1. The necessary risk assessments have been consulted on with your union rep
  2. The risk assessments have been reviewed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety
  3. You are clear what additional mitigations have been put in place to ensure the safety of both yourself and others
  4. You have received training on the new measures
  5. A system is in place to feedback on how well the new measures are working

You can use the UNISON model letter (available here) to send to your employer to make clear that you are available to support pupils with limited in-school provision and are available to work from home.

Lateral flow testing:

It is recognised that many pupils in special schools and colleges will not be able to self-administer the lateral flow tests. UNISON guidance on administering medical procedures has been negotiated with the government and remains the same:

  • Any member of school staff may be asked to provide support to pupils with medical conditions, including the administering of medicines, although they cannot be required to do so.
  • School staff should receive sufficient and suitable training and achieve the necessary level of competency before they take on responsibility to support children with medical conditions.

Remember, helping pupils with administering a lateral flow test is voluntary if your contract of employment does not explicitly state you must administer medical procedures.
If your contract does state that you have responsibility for administering medicines then you must receive full training and only take on the task once you are fully competent to do so.

Government advice:

England - The government guidance for special schools and other specialist settings states that settings work closely with staff and unions to agree best approaches for their circumstances.


Jan 8, 2021

The IER is closed for its Christmas break, and all of our staff wish you a very merry - a safe - holiday season during these extraordinary times.

We leave you with news of our latest project into health and safety, which will be launched in March 2021. The IER has brought a team of experts from across the country together to examine the failures of health and safety legislation in the UK and propose reforms for its improvement. 

Today, we share an article from one of our team - Rory O'Neill - who introduces some of the many issues the project will take to task - in particular, the disquietening fact that offiical statistics appear to be significantly minimising the risk to life of continuing to work through the Coronavirus pandemic.

As we approach the 31 December end of the Brexit transition period, we also share a timely article from Professor Virgnia Mantouvalou and Natalie Seddaca on how UK law is lagging behind on when it comes to the rights afforded to in-home workers such as servants, carers and cleaners - who are overwhelmingly migrants - following a landmark case in South Africa.

Copyright © 2020 Institute of Employment Rights, All rights reserved.


Dec 27, 2020

What is happening?

On 2nd December 2020 a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech was approved for use in the UK. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Other vaccines are being developed. Vaccines will become available via the NHS only once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

When is it happening?

The vaccine will be available from the week beginning 7th December onward. Other Covid-19 vaccinations are likely to be available in the coming weeks. Further vaccines will only be available once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.
Preparations for the delivery of the vaccine are well underway. It is important that employers share information and work with social care staff and their union to address any concerns members may have.

Why is the vaccine important in social care?

Tragically, social care has has been hit hard by the pandemic, leading to loss of lives among the elderly, the vulnerable and the care workforce. Vaccination is a crucially important to protect social care workers and the people they care for from Covid-19. The vaccine will help to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in social care settings.

Who will be offered the vaccine?

At first, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be offered to:

  • people who live in care homes and care home workers
  • people aged 80 and over
  • health and social care workers in England (including domiciliary care workers)

The management of the wider vaccination programme for staff will be handled separately by each administration in England, Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who will deliver the vaccine?

The NHS will deliver the vaccine. Everyone delivering the vaccine will be subject to standardised training and sign-off process. The UK Government has approved changes to medicine regulations which will allow additional groups of health professionals to administer vaccines under NHS and local authority occupational health schemes. This means additional groups including midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists’ can administer vaccines through NHS occupational health schemes. Regulations also allow local authority OH schemes to do this.

Where and how will the vaccine be delivered?

53 NHS hospital hubs will be the main centres for delivery, although delivery will not only take place at hospitals. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at cold temperatures. Once thawed the vaccine can be kept in a fridge for up to five days for use locally. Early indications are that it is unlikely the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be offered in care home settings, although that cannot be entirely ruled out. This means that care workers will be required to travel to vaccination sites to receive the vaccine. Future variations on a Covid-19 vaccine may be more mobile, and therefore more likely to be delivered in care homes and other care settings.

Further Information

1) Informed choice and avoiding a punitive approach from employers

UNISON’s top priority is to ensure safety in the workplaces of our members working in social care. This thoroughly tested and independently verified vaccine, delivered by the NHS, is a means to making social care workplaces safer.

UNISON has strongly advocated for care and health staff to be given priority access to the vaccination. However, as with the flu vaccination, care workers should not be forced to receive the COVID-19 immunisation. We want to ensure that employers make the vaccine easily accessible to all staff who are eligible and provide them with the full information they need to make an informed decision.

Getting vaccinated must not be made a condition of employment or access to public services and that staff should be given paid time-off to get vaccinated. The government has also indicated that they do not wish to see individuals forced to take the vaccine.

We will be seeking a commitment from social care employers that there will be no negative implications for staff who refuse the vaccine. We will also seek confirmation from employers that immunisation will not influence decisions made about terms and conditions such as re-deployment, shielding, or pay.

We would encourage all our members to be cautious in relation to the information they consume and share regarding vaccinations. Trusted and authoritative sources of information such as the NHS and UNISON are a good place to begin for those seeking more information.

2) Paid time for travelling to and from vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine

Some employers in the social care sector will behave responsibly and do all they can to facilitate access to the vaccine for eligible care staff. Sadly, we can predict that some will not.

Eligibility for and receiving the vaccine is a direct result of employment and therefore time spent travelling to the place where the vaccine is delivered and receiving the vaccine should be paid at the normal rate. These are the arrangements which will be applied for all NHS staff and social care staff should not be treated differently. Employers who fail to do this are creating a disincentive for workers to be vaccinated. As the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is likely to be delivered at mass vaccination sites away from workplaces, it is particularly important that this time is paid at the normal hourly rate.

UNISON has repeatedly sought assurances from the Department of Health and Social Care that employers will be told to offer paid time off for travelling to vaccination sites and receiving the vaccine. We have also asked that travel expenses are covered. At the time of writing, we have yet to receive clarification on this point.

3) Safety and protection of the vaccine

The roll out of all Covid-19 vaccinations are subject to approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This process and the safeguards involved are described here. The Agency has given cast-iron reassurances that the safety, quality and efficacy of any vaccine has been thoroughly scientifically assessed.

UNISON has insisted that the same rigour is applied in the roll out of the vaccine. As a result, those administering the vaccine must be trained and certified as competent and robust procedures for the supply and safe storage of the vaccination must be in place.

4) Ownership and partnership working

UNISON has demanded that lessons are learned from the disastrous involvement of private companies in Test and Trace so that management of the vaccination programme is kept entirely within the public sector. We have been reassured the management of the vaccination for health and care workers will be handled in this way.

Social care employers should be working closely with UNISON branches, local councils and the NHS to ensure this programme is planned effectively and maintains the trust of staff.

5) Continued need for caution

It is important to note that the Covid-19 vaccine does not remove the need for continued public health measures to tackle the virus for everyone involved in delivering social care. Social distancing (where possible) and wearing the right PPE continue to be vitally important.


Dec 11, 2020
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