Do I have to do personal care of children coming into a school is a frequently asked question at this time of year.  The short answer is, only if it is written into your job description , but as usual it is somewhat more complex and some background information is useful when discussing this issue with your school management.  A school head should inform teaching assistants, as it is usually this group of staff tasked with this issue.  This does not appear to be happening, as T.A.s are feeling coerced and even bullied into carrying out personal care.

So who is responsible and why am I being asked?  ‘Asking parents and carers to come and change a child is likely to be a direct contravention of the Equality Act 2010, and leaving a child in a soiled nappy for any length of time pending the return of the parent/carer is a form of abuse.’(Appendix 3, Promoting personal development in foundation and key stage 1 – continence 2005).  Responsibility for this duty of care falls onto the school governors to provide services such as personal care and medication administration.  There is no such direct duty placed on teachers or teaching assistants.  Heads and school management should be asking for volunteers to do the role, and then putting in place safeguards for the child and the staff members who have volunteered.  As a volunteer, you can withdraw your volunteering at any point, just by giving some notice.  Do make this aspect of your volunteering role known, and it should not be seen as part of your contractual role.

As a volunteer, or someone who has personal care written in your contract, you are entitled to support from the school.  The majority of support available is statutory, enshrined in law so the school has to provide you with certain requirements.  An example would be providing you with suitable disposable gloves and aprons.  This falls within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 as amended.  The identified PPE must be provided free of charge and be readily available, no PPE = no personal care.

As a basis for negotiations and what the school should have in place, the Branch recommends the following.

  1.  A designated area for carrying out personal care.  This will support the dignity of the child and provide a safe area for personal care.  Provision of a safe way to dispose of soiled nappies and used PPE. This are should also include some infection control measures, such as hand wash and other cleaning aids.
  2. Comprehensive Risk Assessments for the child and volunteers.  This falls within the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, it is a requirement and any identified risks have to be minimised if not eliminated.
  3. Written guidelines on the procedure to be followed when performing personal care tasks.  This should include written statements and permission from parents and any other health professional involved in the care of the child.
  4. Identified PPE provided, this may vary from volunteer to volunteer, as one size does not fit all.  This must be available at all times and written guidelines should include, no PPE-no personal care.  
  5. If there are any safeguarding issues raised by volunteers, then these need to addressed.  Heads and school management need to be aware of the real concerns volunteers have, and protect them.  Though there is no legal provision for two staff to perform personal care.  If this has been asked for, or there is a real need for two staff, then this should be written into the guidelines.
  6. Any identified training should be completed before carrying out any personal care.
  7. Are there any other issues you should be aware of, such as the child being at risk or known to social services.  If they are registered with social services, they will want to know what procedures the school has in place.
  8. Negotiate that should you be absent due to a lapse of infection control, this should not be recorded for absence triggers.
  9. If you have any doubt, speak to your UNISON workplace representative or call the Branch office.

The following documents may prove useful before you enter into any discussions or volunteering role.

Brief guidance on Personal Protective Equipment HERE

Good Practice in Continence Services HERE

The Right to Go campaign; literature and advice HERE