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Coronavirus

At Disability Rights UK we are well aware that the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing great uncertainty and stress among our community. We will keep this page up to date with information and links to government and institutional guidance.

Sign up to our e-news and policy and campaigning emails to be alerted on new updates.

Last updated Wednesday 16 September 2020.

Current guidance

General guidance on Coronavirus

Social distancing

Human Rights

Benefits

Housing

Shopping

Complaints and legal resources

Utilities

Medical and NHS services

Social care

Education

Employment

Public transport

Surveys

BBC output

 

Current guidance

From Monday 14 September social gatherings must only consist of six or less people (some caveats apply).

New payment for people self-isolating guidance released 27 August 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-payment-for-people-self-isolating-in-highest-risk-areas

The government released it’s ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ document on 17 July 2020. They made further adjustments to this in a 31st July statement.

Links to the main FAQs, the full document, including numerous references to 'clinically extremely vulnerable people’, can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/31-july-announcement

Further details of the five new ministerial-led taskforces that have been set up to develop plans for how and when closed sectors can reopen safely, following publication of the UK’s roadmap to rebuild Britain.

The government has launched a campaign, entitled ‘Safeguarding is Everyone’s Business’, to help members of the public spot and help vulnerable people under lockdown. Resources can be found here: https://homeoffice.brandworkz.com/BMS/albums/?album=2092&lightboxAccessID=9AD9C142-A301-458E-8BE489B20777137A

On 31st July, the government updated a raft of information on new safety measures across the whole of society:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing-after-4-july

On 14 July, Matt Hancock announced that from 24 July, face coverings would be mandatory in shops, as well as in NHS settings and on public transport. People with impairments which would cause them difficulties if wearing a face covering, as well as children under the age of 11, are exempt.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/face-coverings-to-be-mandatory-in-shops-and-supermarkets-from-24-july

Exemption cards and badges are available for mobile phones or to print for people who may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. 

 

General guidance on Coronavirus

Information in alternative formats is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

The Disability Unit in the Cabinet Office has published a statement in relation to Coronavirus and disabled people here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supporting-disabled-people-through-the-coronavirus-outbreak/supporting-disabled-people-through-the-coronavirus-outbreak

An easy read guide to Coronavirus can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads
 
 

A comprehensive guide to the latest government guidance, topic by topic, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Information on symptoms, what the virus does, and what to do if you think you may have it, can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

What to do if you think you have the virus: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

Citizens Advice has also issued guidance for people needing help at this time. You can find it here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/policy/policy-research-topics/welfare-policy-research-surveys-and-consultation-responses/welfare-policy-research/helping-people-through-the-covid-19-pandemic/

And here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

Social welfare law updates can be found here: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/covid19

Local help resource: https://advicelocal.uk/covid19

Link to Letter from Justin Tomlinson to Kamran Mallick on disabled people and Coronavirus: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/From%20Justin%20Tomlinson%20letter%20260320.pdf 


Social distancing

You will almost certainly be aware that Public Health England is advising vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities and long-term health conditions, to practice social distancing. New guidance from the NHS for those at greatest risk is expected this week. For the current guidance on social distancing, go here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged vulnerable groups to isolate for 12 weeks in a “period of maximum protection” from the weekend which has just passed. While this is not yet mandatory, it is very strongly advised. You can hear him speaking about this from five minutes ten seconds in on this youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTC8-og9W3Q

On 22 June, the government announced changes for shielders: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

 

Human rights

Nearly 2,000 people have signed an open letter to NHS England stating the need for the rights of disabled people to be upheld during Coronavirus. The letter can be found here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/covid-19-and-rights-disabled-people

You can add your name to the letter here: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=j6oIKO84WEWWM5l7IaxEwRQ7RwmyfS1Ll9pDUh9Rv1hUMkk3NldKUkZOVElWMEIzM0oyREhCSVVPSy4u

The National Medical Director and Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England have responded to the letter: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/response-open-letter-covid-19-and-rights-disabled-people

Baroness Jane Campbell has responded to the response from NHS England here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/covid-19-reply-nhs-england

The NHS has written a letter stating clearly that people must be treated as individuals, and not treated under 'blanket policies':

https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/04/maintaining-standards-quality-of-care-pressurised-circumstances-7-april-2020.pdf

 

Benefits

We have updated our free benefits and welfare reform factsheets with information regarding coronavirus.

Face to face benefits assessments have been cancelled for (at least) three months. More information can be found here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/march/face-face-benefits-appointments-cancelled

The Government’s has published guidance on Statutory Sick Pay, job centre appointments, health assessment appointments, changes to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, Local Housing Allowances and Housing Benefit here: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

People who need to claim universal credit or employment and support allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.

In addition, the government advises that the note can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online, and that:

“'After answering a few questions, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they don’t have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.'”

Other welfare benefit changes include:

  • Increasing the universal credit standard allowance and the working tax credit basic element by £20 a week for the next 12 months.
  • Suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.
  • The rule that means statutory sick pay is not paid for the first three days of work missed because of sickness absence with (retrospective effect from 13 March 2020);
  • Raising the ‘generosity’ of housing benefit and universal credit, so that the local housing allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in an area.
  • Removing the universal credit minimum income floor rule for the self employed.

Carers are able 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 isolate because of it.

The provision of emotional support to a disabled person will now count towards the carer’s allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week.

New universal credit claimants can now verify their identity through Government Gateway or can continue to confirm their identity using gov.uk verify

New-style employment and support allowance can now be claimed online.

The DWP has launched a New video service for deaf claimants accessing Universal Credit.

The DWP has confirmed that people who are currently shielding as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak will not be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) on that basis from 1 August 2020. You might still be able to get SSP if you can’t work from home and it’s not safe for you to go to work. You’ll need a fit note from your doctor to give to your employer.

We have updated our free benefits and welfare reform factsheets with information regarding coronavirus.

Entitled To is a useful website to find out more about benefits: https://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/Coronavirus_help

Rightsnet has a coronavirus social welfare news page that is regularly updated - https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/covid19

HMRC has a new helpline number: 0800 024 1222 which is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. 

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DR UK is a member) has insisted on financial safeguarding for disabled people in a letter to Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/march/disability-benefit-consortium-calls-emergency-covid-19-benefit-changes

Information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, for use with employing PAs, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-people-receiving-direct-payments

And an update on direct payments published on 10 June can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-people-receiving-direct-payments

 

 

Housing

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). With these in force, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home. More information about the announcement and changes introduced can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

 

Shopping

People classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ can self-register for support (food parcels) here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable?fbclid=IwAR0ZciJdp3zC-6ZH8hDIWX2SO1_ijJWq4fexprK2e5Cr9fpbooEJLVON_mA

Some branches of some of the major supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, M&S, Asda, Morrison’s and Tesco, are offering a quieter hour for shopping for vulnerable groups (older people, people with long-term health conditions, and disabled people). While the intention is there, concerns have been raised in the media that the queues are long and proximity to people too close to be considered isolating. If you are able to use the internet, online grocery shopping affords more isolation.

A list of suppliers of food boxes and home delivery services is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SIpvvfywO2m3gKOutCL4BJoVw6bxyF0S/view

A round up of information from the major supermarkets can be found on the inews website. Please note that information is subject to change:

https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/money/supermarket-opening-times-coronavirus-tesco-asda-sainsburys-morrisons-aldi-hours-2502402

An update from Defra, Kamran Mallick's letter to Matt Hancock on food supply, and a petition about supply can be found here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/thousands-struggle-buy-food

You can check for the latest information and find contact details for the major UK supermarkets on their websites.

Aldi: https://www.aldi.co.uk/

Asda: https://www.asda.com/

Best-One: https://www.best-one.co.uk/

Budgens: https://www.budgens.co.uk/

Co-Op: https://www.coop.co.uk/

Costco: https://www.costco.co.uk/

Costcutter: https://www.costcutter.co.uk/

Farmfoods: https://www.farmfoods.co.uk/

Iceland: https://www.iceland.co.uk/

Lidl: https://www.lidl.co.uk/

Londis: https://www.londis.co.uk/

Makro: https://www.makro.co.uk/

Marks and Spencer: https://www.marksandspencer.com/

Morrisons: https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/startWebshop.do

Nisa: https://www.nisalocally.co.uk/

Ocado: https://www.ocado.com/

Premier: https://www.premier-stores.co.uk/

Sainsbury’s: https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/

Sainsburys has a vulnerable persons careline - 0800 052 5500. It is attempting to prioritise vulnerable customers for home delivery.

Call wait times may be substantial.

Spar: https://www.spar.co.uk/

Tesco: https://www.tesco.com/

Waitrose: https://www.waitrose.com/

 

Complaints and legal resources

Fry Law has a raft of template letters which people may wish to use during the Coronavirus crisis, including complaint letters to supermarkets, designed to provide priority access for disabled people. These can be downloaded for free at www.frylaw.co.uk.

There is a list of solicitors with expertise in disability and special education needs (SEN) cases here: https://rightsinreality.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/solicitors-with-expertise-in-disability-and-sen-cases/

Fry Law will also be hosting a forum where people can discuss aspects of law in relation to Coronavirus. This will meet from 6-7pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

You can register here:

https://us04web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_xLcFHpMzRt2-mxi50DpLaA

Some people may prefer to ask questions in advance, and can also tweet them on #DRAquestion.

The University of Cambridge's Faculty of Law has released a Google Drive document created by the Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences to help distribute literature about legal and ethical issues facing front-line healthcare professionals COVID-19.

The compilation has a UK / European focus, and further information can be found at the following links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cambridgelaw/status/1243144800095932416

Website: http://www.lml.law.cam.ac.uk/news/lml-compilation-covid-19

Google drive: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xkFI2tOjlotDZqO3f59OcAQ4_LNOHA3GIq1sjv-m3-Y/edit?ts=5e7b6ca0

The Google drive resources are intended to support transparent and public discussion, particularly during forthcoming weeks when a surge of serious COVID-19 infections is expected to outstrip intensive care resources.

The courts and tribunals service will be using audio and video. More here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/march/hmcts-use-video-and-telephone-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak

 

Utilities

Energy companies have agreed emergency measures to ensure vulnerable people do not get cut off at this time. Details on energy company measures can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51958920

and water company measures here: https://wwtonline.co.uk/news/water-sector-responds-to-coronavirus-outbreak-

 

Medical and NHS services

In the case of GP surgeries closing due to Coronavirus or short staffing, NHS out of hours advice still stands. This can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/urgent-and-emergency-care/nhs-out-of-hours-services/

Information on support from your pharmacy can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/pharmacies/

Hospitals are cancelling non-essential appointments, and publishing their own guidance on Coronavirus on their websites. Check before travelling. 

You can find a list of NHS Trusts linking to websites here: https://www.nhs.uk/servicedirectories/pages/nhstrustlisting.aspx

You can find a list of Clinical Commissioning Groups linking to websites here: https://www.nhs.uk/servicedirectories/pages/ccglisting.aspx

General NHS information on Coronavirus can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

NHS England has put out the following comprehensive guidance to the Heads of Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS Trusts across the country, determining which services should continue to run, which should run with limited capacity, and which will need to be discontinued during the outbreak: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/03/COVID-19-prioritisation-within-community-health-services-with-annex_19-March-2020.pdf

 

Care

Direct payments guidance released

The government has published its updated Guidance for Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups in the Delivery of Direct Payments and Personal Health Budgets in light of Coronavirus. You can view the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-people-receiving-direct-payments. An easy read version has yet to be produced.


The government has published guidance on home care provision here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-on-home-care-provision

And adult social care here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-ethical-framework-for-adult-social-care/responding-to-covid-19-the-ethical-framework-for-adult-social-care?fbclid=IwAR0avXPoMZ2zW-4GpnJlWCOv0tOeXrC0Px0RZO6wphFXvHIu82tuOTtqrLQ

Last week, the In Control charity ran a webinar on social care and direct payments during the Coronavirus outbreak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Tii17_p48Y (note this link is to a youtube video, you cannot actively participate now as the event has passed).

In Control has set up a web page on its Be Human initiative, which links to local facebook Coronavirus support groups, as well as other resources created by Disabled People’s Groups: https://be-human.org.uk/coronaheroes/

While we know it is a challenging time for everyone at the moment due to Coronavirus. Disabled people are still entitled to the care and support they receive from their Local Authorities to promote their independence, safety and wellbeing. Disabled people are also entitled to be adequately assessed in order to ensure proper person-centred care needs are met, and assessment and care and support plans are written. Assessment and care and support plans can be undertaken without face to face meetings.

We have produced a Care Act Guide that can be dowloaded for free from: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/care-act-guide

Clarification on Do Not Attempt to Resuscitate guidance: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/fury-over-do-not-resuscitate-notices

Link to government guidance on care home admission: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-admission-and-care-of-people-in-care-homes

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-on-home-care-provision

Link to information on local authority Care Act easements: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-changes-to-the-care-act-2014/care-act-easements-guidance-for-local-authorities

Download a template letter to enable you to write to directors of social care in your local authority here: https://bit.ly/3aAIlIs

The social care ombudsman has shut down during the outbreak. More here: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/social-care-ombudsman-suspends-work

We have created a FAQs around social care, direct payments and employment matters. Read Social care, direct payments and employment matters FAQs: Coronavirus

Personal Assistants displaying coronavirus symptoms or in a household with someone displaying symptoms are eligible to be tested. Read https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2020/april/offer-testing-pas-displaying-coronavirus-type-symptoms

 

Education

Schools are currently closed for summer holidays. However, on 2nd July 2020, the government published it’s plans for all schools to reopen in September, at full capacity. Schools will be expected to implement ‘bubbles’, based on school class or year, and also increase cleaning, minimise use of shared items, minimise use of and contact in shared areas, and for teachers to distance from each other where possible.

Group size restrictions on nursery settings were lifted on 20th July.

The guidance can be viewed in full below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-and-colleges-to-reopen-in-full-in-september

Separate government advice on SEND schools has also been published. This includes information on temporary changes to SEND legislation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings

 If you are in doubt about what to do with a child who attends a SEND setting, contact your local authority.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre has some useful advice for SEND provision at this time which can be found here: https://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/coronavirus-impact-sen/

From the enquiries our Disabled Student Helpline receives we've created some FAQs around disabled students and Coronavirus. Read Disabled Student FAQs: Coronavirus.

 

Employment

There are schemes to support the income of people out of work due to COVID-19 through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but that does not cover self-employed workers, and is applied for employers. If you’re not eligible for statutory sick pay you can apply for Universal Credit and/or Employment and Support Allowance.

Individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be required to shield from 1 August. This means those who are unable to work from home but can work on site should do so, providing the workplace is COVID-safe. Employers are encouraged to help their employees to transition back to work safely and support them to follow strict social distancing in the workplace. Individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable.

If shielding guidance is reintroduced, either in the case of local lockdowns or nationally, and individuals receive a notification advising them to shield, they will be eligible to receive SSP again if they meet all eligibility criteria.

The government has issued information for employees here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

and information for employers here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19

More here: www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/

HMRC has a new helpline number: 0800 024 1222 which is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. 

The government has issued an explanation of how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance. This guidance applies to those that have continued to work as well as those that have been furloughed.  

The government set up a portal on all things related to employment and benefits during Coronavirus in early June: www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/employment-and-benefits-support/#lse

There have been changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) from 1 August 2020. The scheme will no longer fund employers’ National Insurance (NI) and pensions contributions. Employers will have to make these payments from their own resources for all employees, whether furloughed or not. Further information can be found on GOV.UK.

 In relation to self-employed people, the government introduced the ‘Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)’.  The first stage of this has now closed, however the scheme has been extended. A claim for a second – and currently final – grant can be made from 17th August. SEISS is for those who earn less than £50,000 per year, if they can provide evidence of earnings through tax returns, representing 3 months of average earnings, with a ceiling of £2,500 per month. Options for newly self-employed people without tax return evidence will be to claim Universal Credit and or business loans. If you’re self-employed, claiming Universal Credit and having to stay at home because of COVID-19, the minimum income floor rules do not apply. From 6 April there will be a “temporary relaxation” of minimum income floor rules, and self-employed people claiming Universal Credit will not have to attend job centre appointments to demonstrate what their work is.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

 

 

Public transport

As stated above, face coverings are now compulsory on all forms of public transport. People with impairments which would cause them difficulties if wearing a face covering, as well as children under the age of 11, are exempt.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/face-coverings-to-be-mandatory-in-shops-and-supermarkets-from-24-july

Exemption cards and badges are available for mobile phones or to print for people who may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. 

Some local councils have eased the terms of use for free bus passes, allowing people to use them on all buses, not just on those after the morning rush hour. This potentially allows people to access the early morning hour of shopping reserved at the major supermarkets for vulnerable groups. However, while isolation is not yet compulsory, these groups are being strongly advised to self-isolate to avoid infection.

Rail routes will be running reduced services but will stay running to allow key workers, including NHS and care workers, to get to work.

Refunds will be issued for season tickets. People with passes will need to contact the pass issuer for details.

The government has created a Safer Transport toolkit for stakeholders to share to help inform the public on the necessary steps they should be taking to stay safe when they travel using any form of transport. 

Guidance on the mandatory use of face coverings, including exemptions for disabled people, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

DfT extranet guidance can be found here: https://extranet.dft.gov.uk/safer-transport-campaign/face-covering/

 

Surveys

The Office for National Statistics has published its second statistical bulletin in the series Coronavirus and the social impacts on disabled people in Great Britain.

 

BBC output

The BBC intends to continue its remit to inform, educate and entertain during the outbreak. It has committed to keeping flagship news broadcasts on the air, to use The One Show as a consumer programme for all aspects of the crisis, including health and well-being advice, keeping fit and healthy eating tips, while Health Check UK Live will directly address the concerns of viewers who are in isolation, offering tips on how to keep healthy and happy at home. It will work to offer TV and radio fitness programmes, and use the BBC Food website to focus on what meals can be made with essentials, for those on low incomes.

It has also given the Red Button service a reprieve for the time being.

It has pledged to keep spirits up with repeats of favourite shows on the TV, and iPlayer, as well as launching a new iPlayer experience for children, part of which will focus on education. Read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2020/bbc-keeping-nation-informed-educated-entertained