Last updated: 20 April 2020
On 23 March the government announced further measures to limit people’s movements to help fight the spread of coronavirus. You must say at home, leaving for only ‘very limited purposes’ such as medical needs and shopping for essential groceries.
As well as these new measures, everyone considered extremely vulnerable if they catch the coronavirus will be getting (or will have already received) a text or letter from the NHS asking them to stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact outside of their household for 12 weeks. If you care for someone in this high-risk group, you’ve likely also received (or will receive) this notification.
So what do these new rules mean for the approximately 6.5 million carers in the UK?
Can I still visit elderly loved ones during the coronavirus lockdown?
Yes. The government measures state that you can leave your house to provide care or help for a vulnerable person, including an elderly person. And provided the care is essential, you’ll still be able to visit someone in the high-risk category. It’s really important older and more vulnerable people can still get the help they need during this time
If your friend or loved one does not have immediate care needs, avoid entering their home. You can still drop off food and other essential supplies and perhaps chat through an open window, as well as keeping in regular contact by phone.
- Find out more: How to support an older loved one right now
- Read the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?
What if I care for somebody who is extremely vulnerable?
If care is essential, you’ll still be able to visit someone you care for who is extremely vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19, but there are some further steps you should be taking to protect them.
The government has issued the following directions:
- Do not visit or provide care if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care.
- Wash your hands on arrival and often while you’re there, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
- Provide the person you care for with information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 prominently displayed.
What if I experience coronavirus symptoms?
If you start to display any symptoms of coronavirus (or believe you have come in contact with someone who may have the illness), you will need to suspend your face-to-face visits to the person you care for if you don’t live with them.
The main symptoms of coronavirus to look out for include:
- A high temperature
- A new continuous cough
Use the NHS coronavirus helpline symptom checker if you think you may have the virus.
If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, you must stay at home for seven days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day the first person in the house became ill. See more information on the GOV.uk website.
If you have symptoms and live with the person you care for, you’ll need to stay a minimum distance of two metres away from them at all times. Avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens and sitting areas at the same time as them. In fact, minimise the time they spend in shared spaces and keep these areas well ventilated.
Ideally, the person you care for will have their own bathroom. But if this isn’t possible. make sure you clean the bathroom every time you use it by wiping down the surfaces you have come into contact with.
It’s more important than ever for carers to have a plan in place for emergencies, so replacement care can be arranged if you’re unable to visit a loved one because of coronavirus symptoms. This will likely involve contacting a family member, friend or neighbour who is willing to help if you can’t have face-to-face contact with the person you care for.
If you live with the person you care for, make a plan about what you will do if someone in the house develops coronavirus symptoms. Discuss how you will isolate and protect your loved one, including how to share the kitchen and bathroom safely, if you do not have separate facilities in the house. Read the government advice on sharing a home with a vulnerable person.
If you are concerned that someone you care for could be left without essential support, contact their local council’s social services department to find out what additional support may be available from the council or local support groups.
Carer’s UK has further guidance on its website for planning for emergencies.
How to arrange essential supplies
If you can’t visit the person you care for in-person because of coronavirus symptoms, you can register for government support (England-only) on behalf of someone with a condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. This way you’ll be able to ask for help getting deliveries of essential supplies such as food.
If you’re not sure whether the person you care for has a medical condition that makes them ‘extremely vulnerable’, it’s best to register anyway. Have their NHS number to hand if possible.
There is alternative online guidance for:
Many local support groups have been set up around the country by charities and voluntary groups. These groups are helping to deliver essential supplies to people who are vulnerable or self-isolating. Find out more about local support groups.
Some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets are introducing special opening hours and priority online delivery slots for NHS workers and vulnerable people.
It may also be worth contacting local shops, cafes and restaurants as some are taking orders via telephone and will deliver to vulnerable or isolated people.
Can paid carers still visit my loved one?
If your loved one relies on paid carers, they should still be able to visit, but they must practise even more stringent hand hygiene than normal and mustn’t come if they are unwell. The government has issued guidance to home care providers to help them maintain the delivery of vital care services.
If a paid carer isn’t able to visit your loved one, you may need to put the contingency plan into action. This might involve families members stepping in to help. The Social Care Institute for Excellence recommends local authorities consider requests to pay close families members to provide care if it is deemed necessary.
You can find out more in our guide to coronavirus and social care.
Can I still claim Carer’s Allowance while self-isolating?
If you have a temporary break from your caring role during the pandemic because you, or the person you care for, has coronavirus or needs to self isolate, you can continue to claim Carer’s Allowance.
If you provide care remotely during the coronavirus outbreak, including giving emotional support over the phone or online, this counts towards the 35 hours a week eligibility requirement for Carer’s Allowance.
- Find out how to apply for Carer’s Allowance