'I'm not able to get these people the care that they deserve'

Plus, the rest of our weekly briefing

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Tribune briefing.

This week we look at the care system, and what impact the vaccine mandate might have on an already struggling service in Sheffield. We also recommend an amazing read about a 300-year-old Dronfield butcher’s shop and a fascinating talk about a Sheffield legend.

Our weekend story about Sheffield’s starring role in Threads (aka “the scariest movie ever made”) by former national newspaper science and technology journalist Nicholas Booth was a fantastic read. You can still find that piece here. A warm welcome to the seven new members who joined us after reading that piece. 

Last week we published two great members' stories: the first was about John Ruskin’s relationship with Sheffield and the gift he left to the city; and the second was about a new book which documents how the Sheffield tree protests went from letter writing and cups of tea to mass arrests. Here’s an extract from that second piece: 

Five years ago this week, Calvin Payne and Simon Crump were arrested on Marden Road in Nether Edge — for standing under a tree. As is now well known, the pair were protesting against a programme of mass tree-felling being carried out under a contract between Sheffield City Council and a company called Amey.

A video on Facebook shows them being arrested, the beautiful autumn colours of the fallen plane tree leaves all around them. In the footage, two police officers read them their rights under an obscure clause of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, legislation that was in August 2018 found to have been used against them illegally. The pair were arrested at 1pm and not released until almost 9pm that evening.

This week we’ll put out two more: the first about how a unique competition reflects the city’s burgeoning coffee scene and the second about a company on the cutting edge of the future of energy production. To get both those stories and be part of the future of journalism in Sheffield, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs less than £1.40 a week if you pay for a year.

This week’s weather

Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say: “High pressure desperately tries to hang on to the south but weak weather fronts threaten light rain at times. Still, a lot of dry and usable weather to be had with no scary autumn lows threatening, thankfully! Mild throughout.”

Monday ☁ best of the sunshine coming during the morning as cloud increases from the west by the afternoon hours. Still some bright spells possible but a weak warm front may bring patchy light rain by the afternoon. Moderate breezes from the south-southwest. Highs of 13°C.

Tuesday 🌦 mild but rather windy with some bright spells but a slow-moving and weakening cold front slipping south-east. It may bring very little rain, but the last few that have forecasted to fizzle out have maintained some precipitation, so prepare for it even if it doesn’t come. Mild with highs of 14°C.

Wednesday 🌥 calmer and quieter as we sit under a weak-ish ridge of high pressure. Skies will be partly cloudy with winds much lighter. Remnants of rain from Tuesday should soon clear south, though it’ll be a tad cooler with highs of 12°C.

Thursday 🌥 largely settled and similar with a lot of dry and bright weather to be had. Winds will remain light with a low risk of rural frost should skies clear overnight. Highs of 12°C.

Friday ☁ bright to start but, with low pressure to the far north putting the squeeze on us, cloud amounts may increase later on. Winds will also become breezier from the west but most places should stay dry. Highs of 12°C.

Outlook: initially windy and rather cool for Saturday with a risk of showers. High pressure builds behind the clearing low pressure with quieter and more settled weather for Sunday.

The big story: Sheffield’s care system in crisis

Top line: With unvaccinated care staff in Sheffield set to be banned from working in homes from Thursday, an already struggling system looks set to be tested still further. Can it cope?

Background: Under the government’s “no jab, no job” policy, from Thursday, November 11, all social care staff will need to be fully vaccinated to continue working in care homes, unless they are exempt under the regulations.

  • Employers and unions have warned the policy could lead to thousands of care workers leaving their jobs and “catastrophic staff shortages” in the sector. 

  • The government’s own estimates indicate that across the country, around 40,000 care home staff could lose their jobs as a result of the vaccine mandate.

What about in Sheffield? Nationally, it is estimated that around 87% of care workers are now fully vaccinated. If this figure is repeated among Sheffield’s 8,600 independent care home staff, then more than 1,100 of them won’t be able to work from Thursday onwards.

Struggles with recruitment: In October, Tracey Hobson, a clinical manager at Northfield Nursing Home in Crookes, told the BBC that she was personally receiving 20 messages a day offering her work. She said:

"Recruitment is an absolute nightmare. You wake up in the morning and you're thinking, you know, I'm not going to be able to ensure that these people get the care that they deserve, and have enough staff to do it."

Poor pay and conditions: It was revealed last month that in 2019-2020, Sheffield’s 8,600 independent care workers earned just £8.66 an hour, the equivalent of a £16,600 annual salary. In comparison, their 600 public sector colleagues in the city are paid £13.38 an hour (£25,742 per annum). Zero-hours contracts and no sick pay are also commonplace in the sector.

On the ground: Sheffield care company manager Ali Gibson told us the pressure was now so great that even her senior team were out on care calls constantly. She said she is lucky that all but three of her staff were vaccinated but that other firms will have far more. She told The Tribune:

I think with the right amount of daily/weekly testing and PPE, an alternative could be worked out for unvaccinated people. I am a responsible care provider, I was jabbed to protect our clients but I also advocate choice and human rights, so I am extremely conflicted.

What needs to change? University of Sheffield academic Tom Hunt has recently written that the “under-paid and under-valued” nature of the care profession makes vaccine hesitancy far more likely.

  • He said that when care staff are well informed and treated with respect they are far more likely to be persuaded to take up a vaccine.

  • But he added that without improvements to pay and conditions the sector is likely to continue to experience staff shortages.

Bottom line: It’s easy to criticise care home staff for not wanting to be vaccinated, but how many of us would want to work in a sector where zero-hours contracts are commonplace and sick pay isn't a given? The government’s new social care funding is widely seen as inadequate, meaning the service is likely to continue to have to “do more with less” for the foreseeable future.

COP26 comes to Sheffield

As the COP26 conference in Glasgow enters its second week, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Sheffield city centre for a climate change rally. Protesters marched from Devonshire Green to Barker’s Pool where they heard speeches from among others Sheffield council leader Terry Fox and Green councillor Alexi Dimond. By the end of the week it is hoped that more countries will have signed up to targets that will limit global heating to 1.5C. 

Covid-19 update

Cases: Sheffield’s Covid case rate — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — has fallen slightly to 369, down 32 cases or 1.5% since last week. The England average currently stands at 399.7, 8.4% down on seven days ago.

Hospitals: The number of people being treated for Covid-19 in Sheffield’s hospitals currently stands at 144, a rise of seven from last week. Nine of these patients require ventilation, a fall of three from last week. At least seven deaths linked to the virus have taken place over the last seven days.

Vaccines: As of last Thursday, 782,290 vaccine doses have been given out in Sheffield, including 408,309 first doses and 373,787 second doses. As of Monday last week, 67,698 people in Sheffield have had a booster jab.

Home of the week

This three-storey semi benefits from four-bedrooms and two bathrooms and is situated on a quiet cul-de-sac in Broomhill. It’s on the market for £475,000.

News round up

  1. An appearance by controversial US evangelical preacher Franklin Graham at Sheffield Arena will go ahead next year after legal action was filed against the Sheffield City Trust. Graham’s planned appearance in 2020 was cancelled after concerns were raised by LBGT groups about his conservative social beliefs including his belief that gay marriage is a sin. The event will now take place on May 25, 2022.

  2. The relationship between the Sheffield City Trust and the council is to be re-examined after concerns were raised over how much venues like Ponds Forge, the City Hall and Sheffield Arena were costing the authority. Options include bringing leisure services in-house, establishing a local authority trading company or appointing an external company to run the venues on the council’s behalf.

  3. The Tribune reported on people having their drinks spiked on nights out a few weeks ago. Now, South Yorkshire Police say they believe three young women were injected in city bars in the space of just two days. Officers say there is not believed to be any sexual motive behind the offences and added they were working closely with local pubs, bars and clubs to prevent these crimes from happening.

Refurb begins at former nightclub

As readers will know, The Tribune is a big fan of modernist architecture. However, the unusual red lattice design of the former Embrace nightclub on Barker’s Pool has never appealed to us. It’s perhaps fortunate then that as part of the Heart of the City development work has now begun on its replacement. The refurbished structure will be named the Gaumont building in honour of the cinema which once stood on the same site. As ever, David Poole’s excellent Sheffielder blog has all the details.

Our favourite reads

  1. An interesting piece in The Star by health reporter Lloyd Bent who spent a day at Birley Health Centre in Frecheville to see for himself what the job of a GP is like at the moment. Doctors have been criticised recently for not seeing enough patients face to face but Dr Ben Allen said his surgery is currently seeing well over 100 people a day. "I understand people being frustrated about that and we are doing our best,” he says.

  2. A Dronfield butcher’s shop which lasted from 1702 until 2018 is the subject of this superb long read in The Guardian from last September. Fisher and Sons on High Street was set up during the reign of Queen Anne and passed into the Fisher family in 1852. Sadly, proprietor Frank Fisher was forced to give up the shop three years ago due to ill health and died aged 90 in May this year. There is also a podcast to go with the piece.

  3. As we mentioned above, the Sheffield tree campaign escalated from small protests to mass demonstrations in just a few short years. An indication of just how international the issue became is this brilliant piece in the New York Times from 2018. The story focuses on the allegation that some of the workmen charged with the felling the trees were poisoned with with adulterated tea. The allegation was later dropped.

Things to do

Art: Sheffield currently has lots of small art galleries which are a great complement to the more established venues. One of those is Fronteer Gallery on Exchange Street in Castlegate which is currently hosting two exhibitions: Contemporary Portraits features over 40 works from artists across the UK while Alchemy is a group exhibition by the Orcales collective. Opening hours are 10am-3pm Wednesdays to Fridays, and 2pm-7pm Saturdays.

Learn: The name of Harry Brearley — the inventor of stainless steel — is rightly imprinted on the mind of every Sheffielder. But do you know much about the man behind the discovery? If not, a lunchtime talk at Weston Park Museum on Thursday, November 11 at 1pm will fill in the gaps. The talk includes Brearley’s early life in Spital Hill, his journey to the Baltic Sea and his lifelong socialism — and is hosted by Robin Fielder of Kelham Island Industrial Museum.

Film: Starting this week at the Showroom cinema is a mini-season of films by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The season includes three of the influential director’s best films in multiple showings over the next three weeks. Seven Samurai is showing this week followed by Macbeth retelling Throne of Blood and finally Yojimbo. No lesser figure than Steven Spielberg described Kurosawa as “the pictorial Shakespeare of our time.”

What a shot!

This wonderful photo was captured on Saturday night by Sheffield photography student Harriet Massey. The photo is actually around 20 separate images layered on top of each other. Sheffield Wednesday fan Harriet also regularly takes photos of her team at Hillsborough and her full portfolio can be seen at her website.