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Protecting who you care for

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Last updated: 21 September 2021

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

Despite the ongoing success of the UK vaccination programme, it is still important to take extra care and precautions if you are caring for someone who is clinically vulnerable. See this guidance for more details: in England, in Scotland, in Wales, or in Northern Ireland.

See below for details of how you can access support services. Or turn to your local council (or Trust in Northern Ireland) using our local directory if you need to find their contact details:

If someone is coming out of hospital

You can find our guidance on how to prepare and what to expect if someone is due to come out of hospital here.

Proving you are a carer

Some carers 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:

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 at the moment 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.

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What support is available for me and the person I care for?

Despite the easing of many restrictions, we all need to continue to adhere to the recommended guidance to keep safe.

If you start to display any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you must suspend any face-to-face visits and self-isolate. If you do have symptoms, such as a loss of smell or taste, it is very easy to arrange a test for yourself or on behalf of someone else – read more: NHS website.

See below for further sources of support:

In England, if you are self-isolating and need support or you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, the NHS Responder Scheme is still operating with short-term support. Call 0808 196 3646 (8am-8pm) to make a referral or seek support for yourself. If you're concerned about someone's vulnerability (or your own risk), contact your GP or hospital clinician for advice. If you are self-isolating and on a low income, you may be eligible for a self-isolation grant. Find out more here. The Hub of Hope can also be accessed to find local sources of support and services on a whole range of issues, both from the NHS and from other organisations. For further details about caring for someone who is vulnerable, see this guidance.

In Wales, your local authority can offer support if you are at high risk. Any health or social care services you're already receiving, through your local authority, should continue and your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure you are protected. The Hub of Hope can also be accessed to find local sources of mental health support and services, both from the NHS and from other organisations.

In Scotland, if you are at high risk or self-isolating without a network of support, a national helpline has been set up to provide support – call 0800 111 4000 or read more on Although shielding has now been paused, the general public health rules on physical distancing and hygiene guidelines still apply. Read more about the guidance here. If you are self-isolating and on a low income, you may be eligible for a self-isolation grant. Find out more here. The Hub of Hope can also be accessed to find local sources of mental health support and services, both from the NHS and from other organisations.

In Northern Ireland, there a helpline available for those who are vulnerable and need additional support. Call 0808 802 0020 or you can access 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. The Hub of Hope can also be accessed to find local sources of mental health support and services, both from the NHS and from other organisations.

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How do I protect someone I care for?

To be extra careful if you look after someone vulnerabe, you could continue following the hygiene and infection control guidelines illustrated on this BBC's video and included on the NHS website / NHS Inform (in Scotland). 

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If you live with those you care for

If you think you've been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, you must self-isolate and check if you have symptoms using the coronavirus helpline symptom checker.

You can also book a test for yourself or on behalf of someone else if you have symptoms – see the NHS website / NHS Inform (in Scotland) for guidance. For further information about how you can protect those at highest risk, this NHS page has some useful practical suggestions on how you can look after yourselves. See this page if you live in Scotland.

If you or someone you care for is shielding, you are still advised to stay at home as much as possible, keeping any outings to a minimum. You can also go out with members of your household.

In addition, 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. We have also created a planning tool to help you. Our Coronavirus - further support section additionally provides answers to some common concerns.

If you do not live with those you care for

It is especially vital to ensure you have been vaccinated if visiting a clinically vulnerable person. Whilst the vaccine offers a very high rate of protection, you should continue to take precautions as no vaccine is a 100% guarantee. The government strongly recommends the use of Personal Protective Equipment if you are caring for someone you don't live with. For more guidance, see 'What other protective measures can you take?'

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. You could also find out what local support is available where they live to see what kind of support intervention could be arranged. Our directory would be a good starting point:

We suggest you keep in regular contact over the phone, through email or through video calls. Also consider sending cards or letters – this can be a personal and meaningful way to let someone know you're thinking of them even if you can't be with them.

For further information, see our Staying safe - FAQs.

Watching out for scams

Sadly during the pandemic, there has been a spate of scams with fraudsters claiming to be funding research for vaccination work or to support people adversely affected, for example. If you care for anyone who is vulnerable to such scams, which can be hard to spot, this will be of great concern.

What can I do?

The charity Independent Age has a range of information on what to do for more specific issues, including a useful guide:

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What’s the advice if I have care workers and other home help?

During this time, care workers should only provide support to vulnerable people if they are fully vaccinated from COVID-19, completely well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in their household has any.

Anyone coming into the home to carry out caring tasks, should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water on arrival and often during their visit.

If you have a care worker employed by an agency, you could 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.


See personal protective equipment (PPE): local contacts for providers for details of local authorities and local resilience forums that are making PPE available to unpaid carers (covering England). This will be available until the end of March 2022. In Wales, follow this advice and contact your local authority for help with obtaining PPE. Carers in Scotland can request PPE to support their caring role (read more) and in Northern Ireland, it is advisable to contact your local Health and Social Care Trust. 

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