Back-office workers at one council have been asked to volunteer to step into social care roles as part of an emergency plan that could be activated to mitigate the impact of staff shortages caused by coronavirus.
North Yorkshire County Council has asked those in “non-critical services” in highways, planning and other office roles to help vulnerable people.
Workers would be asked to carry out tasks like cooking, cleaning and helping older people to eat, as well as helping them speak to their relatives on the phone or online.
The council will provide training to workers who take on the roles and said it will match new duties with volunteers’ normal working patterns.
Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, said the “emergency plans will only be used if needed but will hopefully provide sufficient volunteers to get us through the Omicron wave”.
He said the variant could see as much as a 40% reduction in available care staff.
“Staff would be deployed in such circumstances on a range of different duties supporting care delivery in our elderly persons’ homes and extra care settings to free up care colleagues to deliver direct care,” Mr Flinton continued.
“So we are looking for colleagues to help with roles such as cooking, cleaning, helping people eat and drink and social activities/interaction, including helping people stay in touch with families virtually or answering telephone calls.”
Louise Wallace, the council’s director of public health, said the infection rate in the county stood at 1,623 cases per 100,000 of the population, while in York it is 1,698.
The average across England is 1,769.
She urged people to get vaccinated and said: “These rates are unprecedented, higher than any since the start of the pandemic.”