Wales

Coronavirus: Care worker 'soaked and branded disease spreader'

Whitworth Terrace and Abby Jones Image copyright Google/Abby Jones
Image caption Abby Jones was left soaked around her neck and side during the incident on Whitworth Terrace, in Tredegar

A community carer was doused with water in the street and branded a Covid-19 "disease spreader", according to her employers.

Abby Jones was in between calls in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent, when squirted by a runner's bottle on Thursday, Ebbw Vale-based Trusting Hands said.

Domiciliary carers "were putting their lives on the line" and it was "ridiculous", said the firm's boss.

Blaenau Gwent council said the incident was "very disturbing".

Trusting Hands said Ms Jones, 29, was travelling between jobs - just 15 minutes before the weekly 20:00 BST clap for key workers - when the incident happened.

She was picking up toiletries from a friend on Whitworth Terrace, Georgetown, for a Covid-19 patients' appeal when a passing runner approached and abused her.

In a Facebook post, Ms Jones said she knew it was only water but she kept thinking it could have been "much worse".

"It's unbelievable how pathetic and stupid some people are," she posted, explaining that she had showered and changed her uniform, before returning to work after the incident.

Image copyright Abby Jones/Facebook

Trusting Hands has about 80 carers who look after 170 service users across the Blaenau Gwent area.

Managing director Helen Vowles said staff were going above and beyond during the Covid-19 crisis and they just wanted to "get on with our job" without such "ridiculous" treatment.

"I'm asking my staff to go out and put their lives on the line to protect vulnerable service users," she said.

"We are a poor relative to the NHS, but imagine if my staff decided this morning that they weren't going to go to work. It would be 170 vulnerable service-users in the community [without help]."

It is not the first report of community carers facing abuse during the pandemic, with some across the border in Devon saying they had also been branded "disease spreaders".

Ms Vowles said she had heard of other incidents in south Wales - something she attributed to a "misconception" about community carers' uniforms.

"If you work in the hospital, you would change your uniform and come home in your 'civvies'.

"When you work in the community, some people are misinformed and misled and think that we've got our uniforms on and that we're spreading the virus."

Ms Vowles said the incident had been reported to Gwent Police.

Councillor John Mason, Executive Member for Social Services at Blaenau Gwent, said the incident was "very disturbing".

"Carers in Blaenau Gwent are doing a fantastic job looking after and supporting the most vulnerable people in our community," he said.

"These people are the ones keeping critical services going. It's sad that at a time when most people are clapping for and appreciating our health and social care staff for the amazing job that they are doing, that a very small minority feel it is acceptable to act in this manner.

"We would encourage anyone who witnesses any such incidents to report it to the police."

Gwent Police confirmed the incident had been reported, adding: "This behaviour is completely unacceptable, especially towards our key workers who are working extremely hard in a very challenging situation to help others.

"We would encourage anyone who is subject to this type of behaviour to report it to us on 101 so we can make further enquiries and take any necessary action."

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