Coronavirus : Information & HELP

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As the situation with coronavirus evolves, it's important to know what support is available to you as a carer and those you look after.

If you are worried that you or someone you look after may be at risk, NHS 111 can offer direct guidance through their online coronavirus helpline. Call 111 if your (or their) symptoms become severe, and let them know you are a carer.

Do I need to stay away from the person I care for?
The NHS has written/sent text messages to everyone considered to be at risk of severe illness if you catch the coronavirus. You may have received the letter yourself, either as someone in this ‘high risk’ group or as the named carer of someone else who is.

If a person you care for has received this letter/text, the instructions are very clear. They must stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, except from you as their carer and healthcare workers continuing to provide essential medical care.

However, if you start to display any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you must suspend your face-to-face visits.  If this means that the person you care for will be even more vulnerable, for example because they will no longer receive the essential supplies that you bring them, the government has set up a dedicated helpline for vulnerable people seeking additional care.

If you have received an NHS letter/Text or are caring for someone who has, you can register for further support here www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call 0800 028 8327, the government’s new dedicated helpline. 

Even if you are not showing symptoms, the government has advised people to stop non-essential contact with others and all unnecessary travel. See the government’s full guidance for people at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

How do I protect someone I care for?
In the first instance, it is advisable to protect yourself and others by following the hygiene and infection control guidelines illustrated on the BBC's video and included under How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus on the NHS website.

If you live with those you care for
If you think you've been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, take extra precaution around social distancing and check if you have symptoms using the coronavirus helpline symptom checker. If you haven't already, start putting in place contingency measures to support the person you care for. Read our advice on creating a contingency plan. If you were planning to go away, see the NHS website's latest advice for travellers. 

If you do not live with those you care for
We suggest you keep in regular contact over the phone, through email or through video calls.

Families may want to think about spending time together in a different way – for example, by setting up a group chat or playing online games together. If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular phone call to offer social contact and support.

If necessary, make plans for alternative face-to-face care for the person you care for, for example by calling on trusted neighbours, friends or family members. Read our advice on creating a contingency plan.

What’s the advice if I have care workers and other home help?
The NHS guidance is now very clear. Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, personal support with daily needs or social care should continue. Carers, like yourself, and paid care workers must stay away if you/they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. The government has provided specific guidance about home care services.

Let friends and family know that they should only visit if providing essential care such as washing, administering medication, dressing and preparing meals.

All people coming into the home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival and often during their visit. Talk to the person you care for about the hygiene and infection control measures they should expect someone coming into their home to follow. They should not be afraid to insist that these are followed.

If you have a care worker employed by an agency ask them what protective measures they are taking and how they plan to respond if any of their staff are affected. If the care worker shows symptoms of coronavirus, inform the agency. They will need to carry out a risk assessment and take steps to protect staff, their families and all clients from the virus. The agency should work with you to ensure that the person you care for is also safe.

Guidance for working carers
If you're juggling caring with work, you will no doubt be wondering what measures to take if affected by the coronavirus.  If you have been advised to 'self-isolate' by NHS 111 or a medical professional, you must tell your employer as soon as possible. This does not need to be in writing. Your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply. The government has promised that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be given from day one of self-isolation . You should check your contract of employment to see if your employer offers contractual sick pay on top. You may also be asked to certify your absence.

By law, for the first seven days of sickness, you are not required to provide medical evidence to your employer. However after seven days, it is at the discretion of your employer to decide what evidence, if any, they need from you. Due to the unusual nature of the situation, the government has strongly advised that employers use their discretion. For workers that are ineligible for SSP, support will be available through Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

Can I work flexibly?
The government has strongly advised that people should work from home where they possibly can. As a carer, you have the statutory right to request flexible working. Check with your employer how they can support you with this.

What if I need to take time off to help someone else?
As an employee, you also have a statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off from work to see to an emergency or unforeseen matter involving your partner, child, parent, grandchild, or someone who relies on you for care. There is no fixed amount of time you can take off. The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right. Also check your work policy on care leave. 

Important questions

Q1. The person I care for has received a letter/text from her GP/NHS advising them to stay isolated for 12 weeks because of their health. What does this mean?
The NHS has written/text messaged to everyone considered to be at risk of severe illness if you catch the coronavirus. You may have received the letter yourself, either as someone in this ‘high risk’ group or as the named carer of someone else who is.  If a person you care for has received this letter, the instructions are very clear. They must stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, except from you as their carer and healthcare workers continuing to provide essential medical care.  However, if you start to display any of the symptoms of coronavirus you must suspend your face-to-face visits. If this means that the person you care for will be even more vulnerable, for example because they will no longer receive the essential supplies that you bring them, the government has set up a dedicated helpline for vulnerable people seeking additional care.  If you have received an NHS letter or are caring for someone who has, you can register for further support here www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call 0800 028 8327, the government’s new dedicated helpline.  

Q2. Is the person I care for, or am I, at particular risk from coronavirus?
The government has issued guidance about who is at increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). You need to be particularly careful about staying away from others (social distancing) if you are 70 or older (with or without medical conditions) or if you are younger than 70 and have underlying health conditions, including long-term respiratory diseases and long-term heart disease, such as heart failure. See the full list on the Gov.uk website.
If you are at higher risk, don't contact your GP or healthcare team at this stage. From Monday 23 March, you will be contacted directly by the NHS if you are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, and they will give you specific advice.   

Q3. During the Covid-19 pandemic, does providing emotional support count towards the 35 hours threshold needed for receiving Carer's Allowance?
Yes, you can claim or continue to receive Carer's Allowance if you are providing emotional support from a distance to meet the 35 hours of care threshold required for the benefit during the Covid-19 pandemic. This:
• applies to carers who live in a different household from the disabled person and whose only contact with them is now going to be in the form of emotional support via the telephone and social media
• applies to new claims as well as for those already receiving Carer's Allowance. 

Q4. What will the government’s emergency coronavirus law mean for me as a carer?
The government has passed new coronavirus laws to help the NHS and local authorities (or trusts) better tackle the coronavirus. Through this new law, the government will reduce the need for local authorities to carry out assessments of the needs of carers and assessments of the needs of the people carers look after.  This legislation will also reduce the number of carer support plans, and care and support plans. The government has said, to date, that these measures are only to be used when strictly necessary and will be in place temporarily for as long as required to respond to the situation.    This means the Carers Centre may not undertake a full assessment and support plan with you but will try and respond to urgent needs until the current emergency situation has ended.

Q5. What shall I tell people who are visiting, as well as care workers?
Let friends and family know that they should only visit if providing essential care such as washing, administering medication, dressing and preparing meals. The government has provided specific guidance about this on this page – see ‘What is the advice for visitors including those who are providing care for you?’

If you have a care worker employed by an agency, check what their policy is. Also check how the person being cared for feels about any decisions you need to make. Their welfare is of course paramount and they should be part of any decision made.

If in the instance a regular paid care worker was unable to come in because of contracting the virus, check whether anyone else would be able to step in temporarily if needed to provide essential support such as administering medication, obviously taking the utmost precautions.  

Q6. I’m due for an assessment for my welfare benefits. Will my benefits be affected?
You will no longer be required to attend an assessment for a disability benefit face to face. This also applies to health checks for Universal Credit. In the light of Covid-19, the standard rate in Universal Credit and Tax Credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April, meaning you will be up to £1040 better off if you are claiming. If you're claiming Universal Credit, the rules around minimum income, will also be relaxed for the duration of the outbreak.
If you are receiving benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions has given assurance that ‘ensuring that people continue to receive payments as normal will always be a key priority'.  

Q7. Will I be able to continue to get our essential supplies of medication and food during an extended period at home?
Yes. Rest assured that pharmacies and food stores will remain open during this period. They will also be limiting the number of purchases of the same items, and some stores will be giving priority (with special opening hours and online delivery slots) to older and more vulnerable people.
Check as well whether your local convenience stores offer a delivery service. You could phone in advance to find out what they have in stock and whether they can deliver. 

A helpline has also been set up for those who are struggling to get the supplies and support they need. Call 0800 028 8327 or register at www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable

Q8. Can I pick up medication for me or on behalf of someone else from a pharmacy?
Pharmacies will be open but it is vital that you do not visit one if you or anyone in your household has a temperature or a new and continuous cough, even if mild. If you are well and can visit the pharmacy yourself, think about how you can help family, friends and neighbours who are self-isolating by collecting their medicines on their behalf (you may need to take ID with you and will need to know the name and address of the person you are collecting for).

Q9. I was due to have my disability benefit reviewed - what happens now?
The government has confirmed that reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for three months. This measure is temporary and has been taken to reassure you that any disability benefits you're receiving during this period will continue, while resources will be pooled to support people who need to make a new claim. If you need to make a new benefit claim, where possible, try to use online services before turning to the telephone for help.

Q10. I have a booked appointment at the job centre – can I still go?
Jobcentres are limiting public access to their offices and will only be accepting pre-arranged booked appointments during this period. There will also be access for the most vulnerable who cannot get help through other means.

Q11. I’ve heard that my St Helens Council can support me as a carer during this period – is that true?

St Helens Council have up to date information about Coronavirus and local services on their website which you can access here
If you’re isolated by coronavirus and need help, please call 01744 676767 to find out what support is available.   There are volunteers around St Helens who can do things like:
Pick up food, essential supplies or medication and leave them on your doorstep
Have a friendly chat with you on the phone
Walk your dog

Q12. Self isolation; social distancing; and shielding: what are the differences?
Self isolation: When you have symptoms of coronavirus and need to stay well away from anyone else for seven days if you live alone (14 days if living with others - and they too need to self-isolate for this time, even without symptoms). If you are living with someone vulnerable, see if they can stay somewhere else for 14 days.

Social distancing: You must remain at least two metres apart from anyone else and stop face-to-face contact with anyone else outside your household unless you are a key worker, which includes being a carer who needs to provide essential care to someone else. Only go out when you have to, for example, for essentials like food and for exercise (no more than once a day). Use telephone or online services to contact your GP and take particular care if you are at higher risk.

Shielding: Where you need to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because you are in the highest risk group.