Open letter: Care workers are Keyworkers

Many supermarket bosses simply do not understand social care.

That is the only possible conclusion after major labels including Tesco and Iceland specify that priority hours are for the elderly, vulnerable and NHS staff. But not social care workers, who are shopping for those vulnerable individuals now self isolating for their own safety.

Dimensions’ CEO Steve Scown has written an open letter to the CEOs of the four largest British supermarket chains, asking them to ensure that social care workers could take advantage of the special shopping times for NHS workers. We will add their responses to this page if and when they arrive:

Credit where it’s due: Asda – see response below – appear to have got the message. Thank you.


Dear Dave, Mike, Roger and David,

At a time of national emergency we all need to step forward and do the right thing. Your organisations are doing that. So, similarly, are thousands of colleagues working in social care.

My organisation employs nearly 7000 social care workers supporting over 3500 people with learning disabilities and autism across the country. My colleagues are working long shifts providing vital support for vulnerable people in their own homes. All have high support needs, many with 24-hour support. Healthcare in this country is not kind to people with learning disabilities and as today we are supporting many in self-isolation. On average the people we support die more than 20 years younger than non-learning disabled adults with many having underlying health conditions making them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

You will have seen that the government has deemed Social Care Workers as Keyworkers because just like our NHS colleagues they are working long shifts caring for vulnerable people keeping them healthy and safe.  They have been accorded free parking – just like their counterparts in the NHS. Their children are still going to school – just like their counterparts in the NHS. Matt Hancock has written to all of our colleagues reaffirming the vital role they are playing in keeping vital services for vulnerable people going.

Unfortunately the experience of my colleagues when trying to access your stores during designated hours for Keyworkers is that those stores are are refusing to accept our organisational letters outlining their keyworker status. Our colleagues are also being refused access when shopping for the people we support at the times your stores have put aside for vulnerable people.

This is more than an inconvenience. It is a serious problem across all of your supermarket chains. I would be grateful if you could advise your managers to accept social care workers as keyworkers as confirmed in Matt Hancock’s letter to Social Care and consider people with learning disabilities as vulnerable people, thus making it possible for our colleagues to ensure the people we support get the food and supplies they need to stay safe, healthy and well.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Steve Scown, Chief Executive, Dimensions


ASDA has replied, providing clarification around shopping hours for key workers:

“Over the weekend we gave our stores more clarity around the NHS shopping hours we have put in place and confirmed that care homes and care workers could, provided they have the necessary ID, also shop during these times. We currently give priority to NHS and care staff 8am-9am, Monday, Wednesday & Friday, as well as an hour’s exclusive browsing time 9am-10am on a Sunday.”

Tesco has replied succinctly:

“At the moment, the priority hours are for the elderly, vulnerable and NHS staff. We’re always considering how we can make the shopping experience easier for everyone. We understand your concern and appreciate that all of our key workers across the country are doing an amazing job right now. We are always looking for more ways to help our customers and will share your suggestion for consideration. This is an unprecedented time and we can get through this if we work together.”

Iceland – not on the circulation of the original letter – have the same policy as Tesco.

We await responses from Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.