School teaching assistants and dinner ladies are being asked to work in care homes across the East Riding to cover an "urgent" shortfall of staff over the summer holidays.

East Riding Council wrote to school managers asking them to approach "exhausted" staff about the possibility of giving up their summer breaks to care for elderly residents as care homes are "very close" to having too few staff to care for them properly.

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With schools breaking up for the summer last week, teaching assistants and catering staff are now being asked if they would help with reading, talking to and feeding residents in council care homes, freeing up the trained carers to deal with personal care.

The crisis is being blamed on staff having Covid or isolating after being identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

An email seen by Hull Live to an East Riding school staff member said: "As you will be aware from media coverage and the position in our schools, the incidence of Covid and the number of people having to self isolate is increasing.

"This is affecting our care homes and as such, I would appreciate it if you could circulate this email to your school staff, especially those who may be on term time only contracts, to see if we have any colleagues who may be willing or able to help the care sector over the holiday.

"I know our teams are exhausted but across our 150 schools there may be a small number of staff who may ask to find out more about how they may be able to help our wider communities.

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"We would really appreciate your support in asking the question please."

The attached email adds: "Over the past few weeks we have all had to manage the impact of increasing numbers of staff self-isolating due to rising cases of Covid-19.

"This is causing a serious situation in our care homes, and over the last week some been very close to having too few staff to provide the necessary support to their residents, some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

School staff are being asked to give up their holidays to work in care homes
School staff are being asked to give up their holidays to work in care homes

"This pressure is likely to continue over summer.

"We are therefore writing to ask your help. We wondered whether some of your term time staff, such as teaching assistants or lunch time assistants, might be interested in working in our care homes over the summer.

"This would be delivering non-personal care roles, such as sitting with residents and talking or reading to them, helping with drinks and meals, cleaning, answering the phones, helping with visits etc.

"This would really help free up the trained carers to focus on the provision of personal care."

The email added that the work could mean helping dementia patients and that the roles would suit people with "caring experience" but said full training would be given.

"We can reassure everyone that care homes are really safe places to work. There are comprehensive safe systems of work in place, extremely high vaccination take up, and all staff are provided with full PPE and take part in routine testing," the email said.

It states staff who can work "just a few hours" would make a "huge difference".

East Riding schools were heavily impacted by Covid before the end of term, with the closure of many bubbles and entire year groups isolating.

A spokesman for East Riding Council said: “We have been concerned about the number of staff in residential care homes and our home care services who are having to isolate because they have or are living with someone with Covid-19 (often children or young people).

“The aim of the letter was an attempt to put together a list of suitably-trained individuals to work as casual staff to cover rotas if required.

“We needed to cover a number of shifts last week and this is proving increasingly challenging as those staff that are still at work are working longer hours to cover.

“The number of staff impacted varies day to day as some staff return as others go off. So far we haven’t had any take up from teaching assistants in schools.”

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