STAFF providing a vital service to vulnerable East Renfrewshire residents have hit out at management amid claims they were blamed for “bringing coronavirus to work.”

Members of East Renfrewshire Council’s Telecare team perform a key role by helping people who have been assessed as vulnerable, including those with a disability or serious health issue, to continue to live in their own home.

In return for a fee, the council provides a community alarm that links residents to a response centre, enabling them to summon help in an emergency.

However, it is understood that two members of the Telecare team – also known as community alarm responders – have been off work after contracting coronavirus.

That has led to calls for all responders to be tested for Covid-19, whether or not they are showing symptoms.

And relations between staff and management are said to have reached “breaking point” after employees were sent an email – seen by the Barrhead News – in which they were told “the virus that may be spreading about the responders just now could only have been brought in from outside our working environment.”

One member of the Telecare team, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We feel that our manager is basically blaming staff for bringing the virus in.

“We are frontline staff, working in tough times and risking our lives to do our job without one ounce of gratitude.”

The responders have now raised the matter with the Unison trade union.

“We are seeking advice as we feel the relationship with management is at breaking point,” said the worker. “Morale has never been lower."

Steven Larkin, Unison branch secretary in East Renfrewshire, has stressed that all members of council staff “must feel safe” while doing their job.

He said: “It is very important that, if staff are asked to do something which threatens the safety of them or those they are caring for, they must make a professional judgement, speak to their manager and, if necessary, escalate it with a Unison steward.

“We are all doing our best to support the national effort to get through this pandemic. We understand this is a difficult time but staff must feel safe.”

A council spokesperson said: “This email was sent to staff as a reminder about good practice in relation to hygiene procedures and it is unfortunate that the wording caused it to be misinterpreted.

“This was not the intention and a further email clarifying this has since been sent.”