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Coronavirus guidance

Last updated: 8 April 2020 17:57

During this time, 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 making plans. We've also answered common questions many carers have been asking us on our FAQ page and offer some tailored tips on keeping a positive frame of mind in our Wellbeing Action Plan.

For recent updates to the benefits system, see our A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19. You may also be interested in reading the joint statement we have issued with Carers Trust.

What is the latest advice for unpaid carers?

The government has just published (8 April) some specific guidance for carers of friends or family during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are caring for someone who is deemed to be extremely vulnerable, take extra precautionary measures by only providing essential care and ensure you follow the NHS hygiene advice for people at higher risk.

The government's guidance also provides practical information on matters such as finding alternative care quickly if you're unable to continue caring and on what to do if you or the person you care for has symptoms. Read more.

Do I need to stay away from the person I care for?

The NHS has written 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. We have some information further on in this page about how you can continue to support in other ways. 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 or call 0800 028 8327, the government’s new dedicated helpline. 

In Wales, you will receive a letter from the government if you are at higher risk. If you are in need of extra assistance, you will be advised to contact your local authority for support (contact details will be included in your letter). Any health or social care services you're already receiving, through you local authority, will continue and your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure you are protected.

In Scotland, if you have received an NHS letter and are in need of extra assistance, you will be provided with details of your local assistance service. You will also be given details of a text message 
service if you need to arrange a weekly delivery of basic groceries or if you’re running low on medication. Read more on

In Northern Ireland, you can access advice, help and guidance by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or texting: ACTION to 81025.

Even if you are not showing symptoms, the government says it is vital everyone stays at home (except for key workers), avoiding non-essential contact with others and all unnecessary travel, to save lives. 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 to self- isolate and check if you have symptoms using the coronavirus helpline symptom checker. For more details on protecting those at highest risk, this NHS page has some useful practical suggestions on how you can look after yourselves. If you haven't already, start putting in place contingency measures to support the person you care for. For tips and suggestions, read our advice on creating a contingency plan. Our Coronavirus - further support page also provides some answers to current common concerns.

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

Make a plan

If you are having to self-isolate or are required to work longer hours and cannot provide care in the same way as before, read our advice on creating a contingency plan. Here, we explain how many different sources of support can be used to bolster your plan. For example, you can: ensure key information is made readily available for professionals; draw on networks of community and family support; and explore what technology can be used to support someone you look after when you can't be in the same place at the same time. 

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.

It may be of some reassurance to know that councils/trusts have been advised to develop care and support plans to prioritise people who are at the highest risk. They have also been asked to contact all registered providers in their local area to make necessary plans.

You could check with the local authority – or health and social care trust in Northern Ireland – of those you care for to see whether they have an Emergency Plan in place. You can find their contact details here: or use our support where you live directory. The local authority should also publish this plan on their website.

If you're concerned about someone you know being discharged from hospital earlier than expected, take a look at our tailored guidance on 'coming out of hospital'. Whether you need to take on caring responsibilities for the first time or need to resume your role as their carer, this will provide some tips on what to expect to help you feel more prepared.

It is a good idea to let your GP or medical professional know that you are a carer. See our guidelines on how you could go about this on our Let your GP know page. 

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. 

During this time, you can only provide support to vulnerable people if all of the following apply:

  • you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
  • you are under 70
  • you are not pregnant
  • you do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to 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. Read the government's latest guidance for employees. 

What if I have to take time off?

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 – see further details here. 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 says that people should stay at home and work from home where they possibly can, with key workers being the only exception. 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. Acas has further useful information on taking time off to look after someone else. 

If you are at risk of redundancy, you can find some useful information about your employment rights at You may also find our work and career pages of interest.

We have more answers to frequently asked questions on this page.

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