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What is the latest guidance for carers?

To help keep you informed, we have put together some guidance on what is helpful to bear in mind when you have caring responsibilities.

Reminders of what to consider

If you are caring for someone who is extremely vulnerable, it is useful to understand what extra care and precautionary measures you can take.

  • Do you need to consider a contingency plan? For suggestions on arranging alternative care, see our guidance on making a plan.

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When providing essential care

To mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19, you can take a range of careful measures such as wearing a face covering in all public areas, keeping the environment well ventilated, frequently washing your hands and cleaning all shared surfaces, and minimising any contact with others where possible. 

You can also find advice about protecting those who are most vulnerable to the virus here. If you don't live with someone you care for, see the Personal Protective Equipment recommendations under 'What other protective measures can you take?'

It is vital to self-isolate and follow this guidance if you or the person you care for has symptoms. If you start having any of the symptoms of COVID-19, such as a persistent cough, fever or loss of taste or smell, immediately stop caring, get tested, keep away from others and notify those you have been near to recently if you test positive.

If you become ill and no one is able to fill in for you, contact your council or trust straight away and explain the situation.

If you are notified that you have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus, it is necessary to follow the advice in this guidance or this guidance (in Scotland).

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Getting tested

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate and if possible, arrange a test to see if you have the virus, or request one on behalf of someone you care for. For most people, lateral flow tests will no longer be free but they will remain free of charge for the over 75s and most vulnerable. The changes will be as follows for each nation:

From 1 April in England - free lateral flow tests for the general public came to an end, but remain free for at risk/vulnerable groups – see this  page  for more details.

From end of April in Scotland - free lateral flow tests for the general public came to an end, but remain free for at risk/vulnerable groups – see this page.

From 1 April in Wales - PCR tests are no longer available, but lateral flow tests will remain free for people with symptoms. See this page.

From 22 April in Northern Ireland, PCR tests ceased for most people with symptoms, but lateral flow tests remain free of charge for carers and others who are at high risk. See this page

It is advisable to stay well away from others, arranging cover for anyone you care for, if you suspect you have any of the symptoms.

What about personal assistants and care workers?

If you have a personal assistant or care worker providing care support, they should continue to obtain free tests. If they are part of a company or agency, their employers should continue to provide these. If you employ them directly or they are self-employed, the steps that should be followed are outlined in the guidance here

What about volunteers who work in fontline care and care centres?

If symptomatic, they should stay at home. Volunteers could try to obtain free lateral flow tests through the service where they are volunteering, but the availability of these will depend upon the organisation's own policy and practices.

As an unpaid carer, can I still get free tests?

The guidance varies by nation so check the links above in the first instance. 

Tests are still being provided free for those who are most vulnerable so if you care for someone who meets the eligibility criteria, you can try to order tests online here. If you are struggling to order lateral flow tests online, you should be able to pick some up from your local pharmacy (as long as you are symptom free). The NHS website has a useful search tool to help you find out where you can pick them up locally:

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Getting vaccinated

It is very important to keep informed about the vaccination and booster programmes to ensure you receive yours as well as ensuring those you care for also have the opportunity to bolster their protection if possible. Read more on our Vaccine - FAQs page. 

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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: 

Alternatively you could contact your GP practice or your local NHS Trust. If the person you are looking after is under their care, you could register as a carer (if you haven’t already) and request a standard letter that identifies you as a carer.

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

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Struggling to cope?

A sense of normality has not yet returned for many of us with services running at limited capacity levels and the risk of COVID-19 still being present. You are not alone if you are still feeling anxious or isolated. It is especially hard if you are continually being expected to go above and beyond without a break. 

We have put together some ideas to help here. You can also find suggestions on what you can do to keep active here, even if it means staying at home to do your exercise. Doing a small amount of activity every so often can make a big difference to how you feel.

If you're feeling cut off from the world, join us for a weekly online video chat and meet other carers who may be going through similar challenges. In addition, our 'Share and learn' sessions cover everything from Latin dance, to Motown music, to creative writing, usually led by an expert in the field. These are free, fun and relaxing experiences which are held weekly on Zoom. Find out more.

If you need more practical support during the pandemic, for example in terms of gaining medical supplies or food deliveries, see 'Protecting who you care for' for ideas and sources of support.  

Everyone has their limits and if you are desperately in need of help, you can get urgent support from your council or trust to take a break from caring. Please see this guidance for more information. Do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor if you find the feelings of stress or depression are becoming too much or seek help from a specialist supportive organisation such as Mind or Rethink.

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Are there long-term effects from coronavirus (long COVID)?

After having COVID-19, some people find that they have lingering effects from the virus. It is important to seek help if you (or someone you care for) are being affected. The NHS provides useful guidance to help you recognise the signs and aid recovery here.

In particular, they have a dedicated website to provide support if you're caring for someone with long-term effects:

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What other protective measures can you take?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

If you don't live with the person(s) you care for, you may find this government guidance helpful (updated 23 November 2021). 

See personal protective equipment (PPE): local contacts for providers for details of local authorities and local resilience forums you can contact that are currently making PPE available to unpaid carers. 

In Scotland, PPE is also free to unpaid carers from your local authority – read more. Find out more about PPE in Wales and Northern Ireland.

For details about what type of PPE would be suitable, see 'Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on this page. You can continue to access PPE through your usual channels though, if you already use PPE because of the nature of the care you provide.

Face coverings 

Face coverings are still recommended in many indoor public settlings and on some modes of transport. For more information, see  'What's the latest guidance on face coverings?'

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