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Coronavirus guidance

Last updated: 14 September 2020 09:46

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 high risk from coronavirus, 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.

Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

  • Scotland: Check your symptoms online
  • Wales: Check your symptoms online.
  • Northern Ireland: Call 111

This page sets out the current government guidance as it relates to carers and offers suggestions for ways to protect yourself and those you care for. 

You can find answers to some common questions in our FAQ section and see our wellbeing and keeping active and well pages for tips on looking after yourself and keeping a positive frame of mind.

To connect with other carers, you may wish to join one of our wellbeing online chats – find out more here.

For recent updates to the benefits system, see our A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19. 

What is the latest advice for unpaid carers?

If you are caring for someone who is deemed to be extremely vulnerable, take extra precautionary measures if providing essential care and ensure you follow the NHS hygiene advice for people at higher risk (or NHS Inform in Scotland).

Follow this guidance if you or the person you care for has symptoms. Note that in certain areas of the UK, local lockdowns have come into effect, meaning that there are some tighter restrictions and rules you need to follow if based in these areas. Find out if the advice on staying safe has changed in your area?: England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

If you are providing essential care

Wherever possible, we are all advised to strictly follow the social distancing rules. (These will differ across the UK.) However, it may be necessary for you to be in close contact with someone who relies on you for care. Ensure you continue taking careful measures such as frequent hand-washing and cleaning, whilst minimising contact where possible.

If you are providing essential care, it is vital to stop and self-isolate if you start having symptoms of COVID-19 – these include a loss of smell and taste or the more commonly known symptoms of a persistent cough or fever.

If you are notified that you have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus by the NHS Test and Trace system (or 'Test and Protect' in Scotland): 

To find out what to do if you or someone you care for has symptoms, follow this NHS guidance / NHS Inform (in Scotland). For more details on arranging alternative care, see our guidance on making a plan.

Those who live alone or in a single adult household may benefit from a 'support bubble'/ 'extended household'. You can find out whether this applies to you or someone you care for here.

Getting tested

No matter where you are based in the UK, if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you can request a test for yourself to see if you have the virus, or on behalf of someone you care for – see this NHS page for more details. In England and Scotland, you can also be prioritised for testing as a recognised key worker if you are an unpaid carer.

What other protective measures can you take?

Everyone should wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where you may be more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, unless you are exempt. In England, Scotland and Wales, this is compulsory in many public settings. It is mandatory to wear face coverings in shops, for example.

Across the UK, use of face coverings is also compulsory on public transport and in stations. 

Additionally, you should wear a mask if you are visiting someone in a hospital or care home or are attending a hospital appointment. 

In schools

In Scotland, young people at secondary school have been required to wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing is difficult since 31 August.  This measure also applies in secondary schools in England in local lockdown areas (since 1 September).

Exemptions for the use of face coverings do apply – for example if you have certain health conditions or disabilities, where wearing one causes problems. There are exemption cards available to help, such as those found via the link on this page: www.civicmc.nhs.uk/noval-coronavirus/facial-coverings-and-exemption-cards/ and on the Gov.uk site here. They are also available to order from the Hidden Disabilities website here.

See this page for more guidance on when to wear a face covering. 

Getting further support

Carers in Scotland can request personal protective equipment (PPE) to support their caring role. The Scottish Government has provided guidance for carers on what PPE is needed and when. To access PPE, in the first instance, you should contact your local carers centre – use our directory to find your nearest centre. See this video for guidance on how to wear PPE.

In Wales, you can follow the latest guidance on PPE here. Contact your local authority for more details on how to obtain this. Find your closest local authority.

In Northern Ireland, specific guidance for unpaid carers can be found on this health-ni-gov.uk page. A new ID card has been launched to support carers – find out more here.

Click on the links below for further information on:

Protecting who you care for

Making a plan

Working and caring

Keeping active and well

Staying safe (FAQs)

Managing food and medication (FAQs)

Benefits guidance (FAQs)

Practical guidance (FAQs)

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