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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.

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Last updated 31 March 2020 at 1.30pm

National isolation

General guidance on Coronavirus

Social distancing

Benefits

Housing

Shopping

Complaints and legal resources

Utilities

Medical and NHS services

Social care

Education

Employment

Public transport

BBC output


National isolation

In a public broadcast, the Prime Minister has set out new rules for the UK. From tomorrow, the public is expected to:

- Only shop for necessities, and as infrequently as possible (shops selling non-essentials will be closed)

- Shop online where possible

- Exercise just once a day

- Fraternise in public with no more than one other person, unless they are household members from your own household.

- Travel to work only if homeworking is impossible (it is unclear from the PM's broadcast if this means keyworkers only).

The police have been issued powers to disperse or fine.

People can move about to care for vulnerable people, get medical help, or medical supplies.

 

General guidance on Coronavirus

An easy read guide to Coronavirus can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads
 
Coronavirus videos in BSL: https://www.signhealth.org.uk/
 

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

 

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

 

Benefits

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 (SSP) 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.

DLA and PIP claimants do not have to complete and return renewal claim packs issued to them and their DLA and PIP will be extended. They will be contacted in future about renewing their claims.

The DWP has announced that there no requirement to attend jobcentre appointments for three months,

However, jobcentres will remain open and will continue to support people who cannot go online or use the phone to make claims or get support.

Turn2Us is a useful website to find out more about benefits: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/get-support/Benefits-and-Coronavirus-Sickness

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. 

 

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.

Morrisons is offering a basic food box delivered for £35. Details here: https://www.morrisons.com/food-boxes/box/Meat-Food-Box?fbclid=IwAR28wJwOBbGtdH83Ud6echqV1iKRvqFd4DH8OUp9-JIQILl7yBSdEIteyd8

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

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

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

 

Education

Schools are closed, with the exception of need for keyworkers and vulnerable children. Details of who is eligible to attend school can be found in this BBC article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51643556

Government advice on SEND schools is wooly: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers

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/

 

Employment

In relation to self-employed people, who earn less than £50,000 per year, if they can provide evidence of earnings through tax returns, they will receive a one off payment in June, 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-coronavirus-covid-...

If you’re self-isolating due to COVID-19 you can get SSP from day one off work, rather than day four. There have been plans announced 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.

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

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

More here: https://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. 

 

Public transport

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.

 

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