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Coronavirus - further support

We understand that this is a difficult and uncertain time, particularly when you’re responsible for the welfare of others. There is a lot to think about and the constant streams of news can be quite overwhelming.

Know that we, at Carers UK, are doing everything we can to support you and those you care for, highlighting the value of unpaid carers and the challenges you are facing particularly at this time.

Further to our guidance on being prepared and contingency planning, this page brings together the questions we have most frequently been asked by carers. Here, we hope to answer some of your main concerns and help put your mind at rest, reassuring you that you’re not alone and guiding you to what support there is to help.

For the latest updates on changes to the benefits system, see our A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support. We have also created a Wellbeing Action Plan, with some tailored tips on keeping a positive frame of mind.

Some important questions carers are asking us

Last updated: 8 April 2020 10.36

Keeping safe

My mum has received a letter from her GP advising her to stay isolated for 12 weeks because she has severe asthma. What does this mean?

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 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.

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 nhsinform.scot.

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 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.

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. 

You – or the person you care for – will have received a letter from the NHS if you are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, giving you specific advice.  

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. See the ‘Advice for informal carers’ on this page of the gov.uk website. Also see our main coronavirus page, which offers guidance relating to care workers and other home help.

At the moment, government guidance only requires people to self isolate if they are displaying symptoms of coronavirus or someone in their household is displaying symptoms. If you are self-isolating, you need to stay indoors at all times. See this NHS website page for more details. If the person you are living with and caring for has received a letter from the NHS, they must stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, except from those providing essential medical care which may include you as their carer (unless you develop symptoms). More detail can be found on this Gov.uk page.

Do I have to go into work – I'm worried I may catch the coronavirus?

On 23 March the government stated that everyone should work from home if they can. See the latest guidance on the Gov.uk site here. Although key workers are the exception, there are circumstances where you can still work from home if possible, even as a key worker. The government has outlined a list of who is considered to be a key worker. If it’s impossible to work from home and you must travel to/from work, you should carefully read the government's guidance on shielding if you live with someone vulnerable. In particular, see the section ‘Advice for informal carers who provide care for someone who is extremely vulnerable’. Also find out about the Covid-19 Mutual Aid group in your area for any help needed with day-to-day practical support and see our guidance for working carers – scroll down this page.

Managing food and medication

I’m worried I may get prevented from shopping or picking up medication for those I care for?

The government’s guidance regarding social distancing measures does not specify that a form of proof is required if travelling to provide essential care for somebody vulnerable. 

However, if you would feel more comfortable, you could carry a form of ID to prove your role, such as a Carer’s Allowance letter, GP/local authority documentation about your caring role, an NHS shielding letter or the blue badge of the person you care for. You could take a mobile photo of any email that indicates your role, such as one from a GP or relating to a relevant disability benefit award.

It may also be helpful to contact your local carers’ organisation to see if they run a carer card programme. You could browse our local directory as a starting point.

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.

There are also local voluntary groups that may be able to help in practical ways, for example with home deliveries. See https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups/ and https://www.goodgym.org/mission-runs as well as trusted groups on social media. Make sure that these are legitimate though. It is surprising how many people will rally round if they know someone is experiencing difficulties so do ask trusted friends, neighbours and family members for recommendations or direct help.

A helpline has also been set up for those who are struggling to get the supplies and support they need – call 0800 028 8327

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).

Here are some other tips:

  • If you are self-isolating please ask family, friends or neighbours to arrange to pick up your medication for you. If you don’t have anyone who can collect your medicine, speak to your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help.
  • Ask your prescriber about the possibility of ordering repeat prescriptions online through electronic repeat dispensing.
  • Don't ring the pharmacy unless it's an emergency and ensure you don't order above and beyond what you need.
  • Put your contact details on prescriptions so pharmacies can let you know when your medicines are ready.
  • Please try to order your next prescription seven days before it is due, if possible, as pharmacies will be working very hard to meet demand.

Benefits guidance

I'm having to pay back Carer’s Allowance because of an overpayment but I can no longer afford to. What happens now?

The government has decided to stop recovering overpayments for three months during this period. This includes benefit overpayments, tax credit debts or social fund loans. Although most deductions will be stopped automatically, if you have a standing order set up with your bank, you will need to contact them to stop the payments. Read more in this Gov.uk press release.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, does providing emotional support count towards the 35 hours threshold needed for receiving Carer's Allowance?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, new measures (from 30 March) allow unpaid carers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets coronavirus or if they have to self-isolate because of it. This is also being introduced in Scotland.

The government has also confirmed that providing emotional support counts towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 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.

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. You can read the latest guidance on the Gov.uk website.

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. For further details, see the latest news on the Gov.uk website and our Universal Credit page

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'. 

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 (from 24 March). 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.

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, in exceptional circumstances, during this period. There will also be access for the most vulnerable who cannot get help through any other means. See this press release for more details.

What will the government’s emergency coronavirus bill mean for me as a carer?

The government has introduced this emergency draft bill to help the NHS and local authorities (or trusts) better tackle the coronavirus. Through this bill, 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.

I’ve heard that my local authority/trust can support me as a carer – is that true?

It’s really important that councils – or health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland – know who the unpaid carers in their local area are, so that they can offer support and include carers in their emergency planning. We would urge you to contact your council or health and social care trust to register with them, letting them know that you are a carer. 

Practical guidance

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. See the government's guidance for more information. 

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. See the governent's guidance.  

Shielding: Where you need to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because you are in the highest risk group. There is support for anyone in this situation who needs it – call 0800 028 8327

How can I manage my caring responsibilities now that the schools and nurseries have closed?

The recent measures taken by the government of closing schools and nurseries to control the spread of Covid-19 will be challenging for a lot of families. The government has provided some key guidelines to follow:

  1. Wherever possible, children should be at home.
  2. Specific support will be provided for children who need specialist support, who are vulnerable or who have a parent who is a critical worker.
  3. Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  4. Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  5. Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

For more guidance, for example if your work is critical to the Covid-19 response, see the gov.uk website.

What support is available where I live?

You can use our online local directory to find out if there are any specific carers’ organisations in your area, as a starting point. Also check out whether there are any Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK groups near you.

In Scotland: Our Carers UK Scotland page brings together some very useful sources of support. For those seeking information about specific medical conditions, there is some useful and detailed guidance on this page of the Gov.scot site.

In England: If you're struggling to organise essential supplies for someone who is very vulnerable, you can register for support at www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable

In Wales: Up-to-date guidance and helpful resources are available at the Public Health Wales website.

In Northern Ireland: A freephone helpline is now available for all citizens to access advice, help and guidance. Call 0808 802 0020 (9am-5pm), email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or text: ACTION to 81025.

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