Now in our third lockdown, access to face to face counselling has, for some, been a struggle. Seeing many people without the support they need in these particularly difficult times and Counsellors between a rock and a hard place due to restrictions. Although online therapy has and will always be a great therapy option, it’s not a first choice for everyone.
Now with the roll out of the U.K COVID-19 Vaccine and the recent Priority Cohort 2 operational guidance naming Counsellors (see page 6 of the guidance) as one of the occupational groups eligible for vaccination, there is light at the end of the tunnel for both Counsellors and Clients alike.
This offer of the COVID vaccine is based upon occupational immunisation and not clinical vulnerability and the scope of the guidance states that the vaccine roll out to this cohort is irrespective of which sector individual counsellors work in, meaning that counsellors in the third sector and Private Practice are eligible. However it is only relevant to those seeing clients face to face and so therapists are therefore encouraged to consider whether this applies to them before booking a vaccine.
The government recommendations by staff groups state:
The objective of occupational immunisation of health and social care staff is to protect workers at high risk of exposure who provide care to vulnerable individuals. Although there is yet no evidence on whether vaccination leads to a reduction in transmission, a small effect may have major additional benefit for staff who could expose multiple vulnerable patients and other staff members. Potential exposure to COVID-19, and therefore the priority for vaccination, may vary from workplace to workplace. Guidance on COVID-19 immunisation that may be appropriate follows:
Social care workers
This would include:
those working in long-stay residential and nursing care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality
social care staff directly involved in the care of their patients or clients
others involved directly in delivering social care such that they and vulnerable patients/clients are at increased risk of exposure
Young people age 16 to 18 years, who are employed in, studying or in training for health and social care work should be offered vaccination alongside their colleagues if a suitable vaccine is available. Younger people who are taking part in health and social care work as volunteers, interns or for the purposes of work experience, should make all efforts to avoid exposure to infection; vaccination would not normally be required.
Within England, individual NHS Trusts have been tasked with getting this news out locally, working in partnership with counselling professional bodies such as BACP, NCS and the UKCP (to mention just a few) to inform their members where possible. Unfortunately as the vaccine availability timeline will differ locally there is no hard news on when you will be able to access a vaccine (although there is a deadline date of the 28th of February for self-referral), however the guidance does urge take up of the offer. Stating that front line workers ‘should consider their personal and professional responsibility to maximise their own, their client’s, and any co-worker or family members health and safety.
They should actively participate in the arrangements to access a vaccination as agreed with their employer where appropriate.
They should act in a way to safeguard resources by ensuring they attend booked appointments and ensure they have the necessary documentation to enable vaccination sites to validate their identity at the point of delivery.
Additionally, workers should make efforts to access a flu vaccination, being sure to follow the correct guidance and timelines between flu and COVID-19 vaccination.’
Counsellors have shared that many have already taken up the NHS offer without any hiccups, although others have noted that proof of work or registration to one of the professional bodies was needed, which we are told by the NCS is readily available and an email has been sent out to members.
Counsellors can self-refer and vaccination appointments can be booked directly via the NHS booking system online, by contacting your GP surgery or by calling 119 (the cut off for self -booking is the 28th February)
For Vaccination information in other parts of the U.K. please see the links below
COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for social care staff
COVID-19 vaccination programme
Vaccine Update, COVID-19 Special Edition