31 Oct 2021

Mandatory vaccines needed in community housing - agency

12:06 pm on 31 October 2021

A community housing agency is calling for Covid-19 vaccinations to be made mandatory for the sector.

Elderly person in lockdown, isolation, isolate, Covid-19, mask, mental health.

Photo: 123RF

Community Housing Aotearoa said compulsory vaccinations would provide more security for their staff.

Chief executive Vic Crockford said the government's mandate for the health and disability sector does not explicitly cover the community housing sector, and that is causing confusion and uncertainty.

The organisation's 75 member groups are responsible for housing 30,000 people in more than 18,000 homes throughout the country.

Crockford said the sector's frontline workers provide essential public-facing services in people's homes and to the homeless, and many of their services were similar to those offered by the vaccine-mandated health and disability services.

As well as housing, they assist essential food networks and help healthworkers vaccinate communities who are hard to reach.

"For a lot of those who have done their risk assessments, and seen that most of their staff are high risk, even if they are administration staff - because they're having so much contact with the front line - they are looking to move forward with their own mandates.

"But they're doing so knowing that they are not protected by the health order."

Crockford said the workers were often in the same "close quarters, as a hairdresser or a nurse". And some organisations who employed health and disability workers had some staff mandated and others not, but those staff still needed to "mingle" and work together.

Crockford believed community housing workers had been overlooked as frontline workers, and said the sector had made its position clear to the government.

"We're working really really hard on behalf of the whole country, to make sure that everyone stays safe - particularly our housing providers in Auckland.

"We know that Minister [Megan] Woods is working on further mandates in the coming fortnight. We need the government to keep the community housing sector front of mind as they go about that work.

"I'd just encourage the government to give our providers as much certainty as possible, so we can carry on that work as safely as possible."

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