Care workers desperate for fair access to supermarkets

UNISON organiser Mark Turner, photo credit: Natasha Hirst

Download the Social care worker card FAQs

Trade union representatives for social care workers across Wales have welcomed the introduction of a card which will allow them to access supermarkets during the allocated opening hours for health service staff.

The card, which is being launched for social care workers in Wales today, (Wednesday), identifies them as key workers in fighting the pandemic.

Care workers provide vital hands-on support in our communities for the most vulnerable. UNISON Cymru Wales say throughout the lockdown they have been desperate for fair access to supermarkets and yet they were regularly turned away at supermarket entrances because they were not employed by the NHS.

The trade union says many care workers have difficulty in fitting shopping around often irregular shift patterns and were then faced with long queues outside supermarkets and depleted grocery shelves.

UNISON Cymru Wales conducted a small poll of care workers on a special social media platform it has created to support care workers during the coronavirus. It found during the health worker supermarket opening hours: –

  • 68 per cent of carers who responded were refused access because they did not have an NHS badge
  • 6 per cent only gained entry when they were able to provide additional information

Care worker comments to UNISON’s site included:

  • Before my shift, I was turned away and was told my uniform is not important
  • I was left feeling second best. I’m looking after vulnerable people – the same as NHS staff, just in a different setting
  • One (named) supermarket refused entry even after I showed them the proof of a letter and identification
  • I haven’t even tried to go to my local supermarket during the special opening hours because I’m just worried I would be embarrassed by them turning me away

Mark Turner, UNISON lead officer for social care said,

“The determination of all public service workers to go on serving their community during extremely difficult circumstances in the lockdown has been inspiring.

“Care workers and social workers help our health service by ensuring the vulnerable stay safe in their homes. They are angry they have been prevented from accessing the special supermarket opening times.

“Care work must be recognised and fairly valued and the issuing of this card by Social Care Wales is an important first step.

“All key workers, whoever their employer, need to be allowed special access to buy their groceries during the pandemic.”

Notes for editors 

Download the Social care worker card FAQs

  • The social care worker card is being launched for all care workers in Wales today (Wednesday)
  • Social Care Wales says: An e-mail will go out to all professionally regulated social care workers (approximately 30,000) on our Register on Wednesday, 15 April, introducing the card and providing them with instructions on how to download it onto their smartphone. The plastic cards will be posted to the registered workers when they are ready
  • Link to Social Care Wales website providing more detail on the card
When answering UNISON Cymru Wales’ poll, about access to supermarkets during the special health worker opening hours:
  • 68 per cent of respondents stated they were refused access because they did not have an NHS badge
  • 25 per cent said they accessed it without a problem
  • 6 per cent said they accessed it by were required to provide additional identification
  • 1 per cent said they were refused for another reason


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97