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Coronavirus guidance

Last updated: 25 November 2020 10.56

During this 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. For support with developing emotional resilience and improving your sense of wellbeing, you could also try out our free online course: https://carersdigital.org/wellbeing/

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

You must self-isolate and follow this guidance if you or the person you care for has symptoms. To combat the rise in cases of COVID-19, there are now lockdowns in effect across much of the UK with stricter rules you must follow again in order to keep safe. Find out about the latest rules in your area: England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

As long as you have no COVID-19 symptoms and take every precaution, you are allowed to continue visiting someone who relies on you for care – see below for more information.

If you are providing essential care

Wherever possible, we are all advised to strictly follow the social distancing rules, which differ according to where you are in the UK so check your area. 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 wearing a face covering, frequently washing your hands and cleaning all shared surfaces, whilst minimising any 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, it is necessary to: 

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.

What is the latest advice on how to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus? Read the latest guidance here.

Latest lockdown guidance

If you live in England, the second lockdown will last until 2 December. Then a tiered system will come into effect - read more. For the current guidance to follow, see this gov.uk page.

If you desperately need a break

You can arrange with family or friends for someone else to provide the care you normally provide to the person you care for, to enable you to take a break. Read more

If you live in Scotland, a tiered system came into effect from 2 November which means that different restrictions apply according to where you are based in the country. Find out more here.

In Northern Ireland, a 'circuit-breaker' lockdown is now in place to curb the rise in cases of the virus. The full lockdown has been extended until 20 November (with a partial one to follow until 27 November) – read more about what this involves.

In Wales, the two week 'firebreak' lockdown ended on 9 November. If you or relatives live in Wales, you can find the latest guidance on the rules to follow here.

You should not be prevented from visiting someone who needs your support with care.

Proving you are a carer

Some people are worried about having to prove they are a carer during the pandemic in order to travel and demonstrate they are exempt to certain rules. Many local authority areas run different ID schemes, such as Carer Passports, Carer Emergency Cards, Carers Discount Cards, but not all do. Look at your local carers’ organisation or local authority website to see what is available: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-support/local-support

If there is not a scheme in place, contact your GP practice or ask at your local NHS Trust if the person you are looking after is under their care, and ask for a standard letter identifying you as a carer. 

In Northern Ireland, a new ID card has been released for carers – see this page for more information.

Can I urgently visit someone in another country if they need me for care purposes?

Although most people cannot travel between countries in the UK now, there are exceptions for those who need to care for someone urgently. It is advisable to carry some form of proof, such as a letter from your doctor, to prove your role (see above).

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?

Contact tracing

You can now download a free official app to protect you and your loved ones and be prepared in your area. In England and Wales, this is the NHS COVID-19 app. While in Scotland, this is called Protect Scot.

In Northern Ireland, the new test and trace app can be found here

Face coverings

Across the UK, use of face coverings is now compulsory in many public places, such as in shops and on public transport. Additionally, you must wear a mask if you are visiting someone in a hospital or care home or attending an appointment.

For more information, see  'What's the latest guidance on face coverings?'

What happens if you can't wear a face covering?

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. 

What is the latest news on the vaccine? Read more here.

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

A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19

Working and caring

Protecting your mental wellbeing

Keeping active and well

Staying safe (FAQs)

Managing food and medication (FAQs)

Benefits guidance (FAQs)

Practical guidance (FAQs)

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