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Protecting who you care for

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Last updated: 23 February 2021 12:14

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

We are all still advised to stay at home and avoid using public transport, going to the shops or going to work. It is vital 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?

With national lockdowns still in place, we are all strongly advised to stay at home, adhere stringently to social distancing measures and to continue taking extra steps to protect ourselves and those we care for.

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, you can arrange a test for yourself or on behalf of someone else here: NHS website.

See below for sources of support if you are shielding:

In England, if you are self-isolating and need support or you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, the NHS Responder Scheme has been set up to help. Call 0808 196 3646 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. 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. 

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.

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.

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How do I protect someone I care for?

Even if you are not showing symptoms, it is important to continue observing the social distancing rules, avoiding non-essential contact with others. Continue taking every precaution necessary for those at highest risk.

Also make sure you keep following the hygiene and infection control guidelines illustrated on this BBC's video and included on the NHS website / NHS Inform (in Scotland) to protect yourself and others. For further information, see our Staying safe - FAQs.

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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, take extra precautions 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

You can visit a clinically vulnerable person inside their home, if you are providing essential care or assistance to them and taking extra precautions. 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.

You could plan to watch films or programmes at the same time, and then get together remotely by telephone or social media to discuss them. Many people are also keeping in touch by setting up group chats or playing online games together.

If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular phone call to offer vital social contact and support. If you are in a single adult household or live alone, you may be able to benefit from a 'support bubble' / 'extended household'. This measure has been introduced to support people who are lonely or cut off from others. 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?

The NHS guidance is still very clear. Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, personal support with daily needs or social care should continue. If you have caring responsibilities, it is vital to stay away and arrange alternative care support if you or they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. 

During this time, you should only provide support to vulnerable people if all of the following apply:

  • you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
  • you are under 70
  • you are not pregnant
  • you do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus.

Anyone coming into the home to carry out essential caring tasks, should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival and often during their visit. Talk to the person you care for about the hygiene and infection control measures they should expect someone coming into their home to follow. They should not be afraid to insist that these are followed.

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

For advice on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in supported living settings and in home care settings, you may find it useful to refer to this information (covering England). 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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