Coronavirus Articles by John Pring

By John Pring on 19th March 2020                Listen

The government is facing accusations that its emergency planning for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has “abandoned” Disabled people who use direct payments to employ their own personal assistants (PAs).

Although the government finally produced guidance for the social care sector on 13 March, that guidance is aimed at  service-providers in the residential care, supported living and home care sectors, and not at individual Disabled people who employ their own care staff.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has so far failed to produce any guidance for Disabled people on what they should do if they or their PAs become ill with coronavirus, or suspected coronavirus, or how to plan for such an eventuality.

And it had failed to ease those concerns …… despite attempts by Disability News Service (DNS) to clarify its position.

There are also concerns over how Disabled people employing their own PAs can secure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, aprons and masks.

It came as the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities warned that little had been done to protect the rights of Disabled people across the world during the pandemic (see separate storyhere ).

Among those who have raised concerns about DHSC’s failure to provide guidance is Baroness [Jane] Campbell, a crossbench peer and independent living campaigner, who relies on PAs for her personal care.

She has written to care minister Helen Whateley, pointing out the “urgent need for greater information and planning” for Disabled people who employ PAs.

She told the minister that she and other Disabled employers of PAs were “feeling particularly vulnerable at this time, without any detailed information on our particular circumstances.

“As we are deemed to be in the highest risk group, I feel there is an urgent need for greater information and planning for this cohort.”

Another Disabled campaigner who uses direct payments and PAs, who has asked to remain anonymous, expressed similar concerns.

She began showing flu-like symptoms this week and said she was originally advised by NHS 111 to “self-isolate”, after she described her symptoms over the phone.

But when she explained that she relied on care workers visiting her twice daily, she was put on hold by the telephone advisor, before eventually being told that it was OK for her care workers to come in as usual, as long as appropriate hygiene measures were taken.

She ignored this advice and is instead attempting to self-isolate without any support from care workers.

She said the information she received could mean that other Disabled people could be receiving care from a care worker who has come “directly from houses of people in self-isolation, on direct instructions from 111.”

She said that Disabled people on direct payments were “having to make a choice between your health and your care, the lack of which will impact on your health anyway”.

She added: “People all over are asking what happens if they need to self-isolate.

“There appears to be no official answer, support or plan of action. I’m in that situation and have had no joy from 111, social services or my GP.”

Anne Pridmore, director of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports Disabled people who employ PAs, and who employs PAs herself, wrote to the director of social services at her local authority, Leicestershire County Council, asking what arrangements were in place for people who employ their own PAs through direct payments.

She received only a standard letter referring her to the government guidance, which says nothing about Disabled people on direct payments.

She said: “It feels to me like this government are just allowing Disabled people and elderly people to die.”

Pridmore has posted a video on social media, in which she explains her concerns.

She told DNS: “It needs to be said. There are a lot of us in this situation.”

She has now been told by the council that if her care arrangements break down, she will be placed in a residential home.

But she said she would “rather be dead with the virus” than live in a care home, while she thought it was unlikely that any home would accept someone in her position anyway because of the risks of infection.

She said: “I just think it’s shocking. We have been abandoned.”

Leicestershire County Council has also failed to comment.

By John Pring on 19th March 2020                Listen

Little has been done across the world to provide Disabled people with the support and guidance needed to protect them during the coronavirus pandemic, despite many of them being in a high-risk group, a UN human rights expert has warned.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said Disabled people feel as though they have been “left behind”.

She said: “Containment measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation, may be impossible for those who rely on the support of others to eat, dress and bath.

“This support is basic for their survival, and States must take additional social protection measures to guarantee the continuity of support in a safe manner throughout the crisis.”

She called on governments to take reasonable measures to ensure Disabled people can reduce contact with others and cut the risk of contamination.

This should include allowing them to work from home, or providing access to financial aid.

She said: “Many people with disabilities depend on services that have been suspended and may not have enough money to stockpile food and medicine, or afford the extra cost of home deliveries.”

Devandas Aguilar also warned that the situation of Disabled people in institutions, including mental health units and prisons, was “particularly grave” because of the high risk of contamination and the lack of external oversight which could be aggravated by the use of emergency powers introduced to deal with the health crisis.

She said: “Restrictions should be narrowly tailored, and use the least intrusive means to protect public health.

“Limiting their contact with loved ones leaves people with disabilities totally unprotected from any form of abuse or neglect in institutions.”

She said governments should be reassuring Disabled people that their survival is a priority, and establishing “clear protocols” to ensure that access to healthcare does not discriminate against Disabled people.

And she said it was crucial that information on how to prevent and contain coronavirus was accessible to everyone through sign language, and the use of plain language, accessible digital technology, captioning, relay services, text messages, and easy-read formats.

She also said that organisations run and controlled by Disabled people should be consulted and involved at all stages of the COVID-19 response.

[With very many thanks to John Pring and Disability News Service, www.disabilitynewsservice.com ]

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Guidance for those who have received a letter saying they are especially high risk

[Please note: This information is from the government’s website, in their wording – except the one occasion where we have crossed out a phrase at one point and inserted alternative words.]

Background and scope of guidance

This guidance is for people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition, and for their family, friends and carers.  It is intended for use in situations where the extremely vulnerable person is living in their own home, with or without additional support.  This includes the extremely clinically vulnerable people living in long-term care facilities, either for the elderly or persons with special needs.

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.  We are strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions (listed below) which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.

What do we mean by extremely vulnerable?

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include:

Solid organ transplant recipients

People with specific cancers:

  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.

People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).

People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.

Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

Shielding is for your personal protection, it is your choice to decide whether to follow the measures we advise.  Individuals who have been given a prognosis of less than 6 months to live, and some others in special circumstances, could decide not to undertake shielding.  This will be a deeply personal decision.  We advise calling your GP or specialist to discuss this.

The NHS in England has been contacting people with these conditions to provide further advice.

If you think you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed above and you have not received a letter by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by your GP, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.

We understand this is an anxious time and people considered extremely vulnerable will understandably have questions and concerns.  Plans are being readied to make sure you can rely on a wide range of help and support.

What you need to know

If you have an underlying health condition listed above, you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) requiring admission to hospital.

Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.  Please note that this period of time could change.

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).  You may find this guidance on home care provision useful.  All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often whilst they are there.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell.  You can also contact your local council for advice on how to access care.

If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111.  Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves.  They should do what they can to support you in shielding and they should stringently follow guidance on social distancing, reducing their contact outside the home.  If you care for but don’t actually live with someone who is extremely vulnerable you should still stringently follow guidance on social distancing.

How do these measures differ from the social distancing guidance for vulnerable people issued?

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.

People who are not clinically extremely vulnerable who have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) and recovered will be able to go about their normal business.  If you are in this group we strongly advise that you should remain at home at all times.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature (above 37.8 °C)

What is shielding?

Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.  This means that those who are extremely vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.  This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.

If you think you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) and follow the face-to-face distancing measures below.

The measures are:

  1. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not leave your house.
  3. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services.
  4. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

We know that stopping these activities will be difficult.  You should try to identify ways of staying in touch with others and taking part in your normal activities remotely, from your home.  However, you must not participate in alternative activities if they involve any contact with other people.

This advice will be in place for at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.

What should you do if you have someone else living with you?

Whilst the rest of your household are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves, we would expect them to do what they can to support you in shielding and to stringently follow guidance on social distancing.

  1. Minimise as much as possible the time other family members spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated.
  • Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible. If you can, you should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household.  Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes.
  • If you do share a toilet and bathroom with others, it is important that they are cleaned after use every time (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with).  Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first.
  • If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present.  If you can, you should take your meals back to your room to eat.  If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery.  If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly.  If you are using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.
  • We understand that it will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home.  You should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.

If the rest of your household stringently follow advice on social distancing and minimise the risk of spreading the virus within the home by following the advice above, there is no need for them to also shield alongside you.

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

There are general principles you should follow to help prevent the spread of airway and chest infections caused by respiratory viruses, including:

  • wash your hands more often – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser. Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and after you eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home

What should you do if you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature above 37.8 °C and/or new and continuous cough), seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS111 if you don’t have internet access.  In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill.  Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

To help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, we ask that you prepare a single hospital bag.  This should include your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency), any information on your planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication etc).  If you have an advanced care plan, please include that.

How can you get assistance with foods and medicines if you are shielding?

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home. Please discuss your daily needs during this period of staying at home with carers, family, friends, neighbours or local community groups to see how they can support you. Please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable from Tuesday 24 March 2020 to register for the support that you need. This includes help with food, shopping deliveries and additional care you might need.

The government is helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions. Prescriptions will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you do not currently have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:

  1. Asking someone who can pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy, (this is the best option, if possible).
  2. Contacting your pharmacy to ask them to help you find a volunteer (who will have been ID checked) or deliver it to you.

You may also need to arrange for collection or delivery of hospital specialist medication that is prescribed to you by your hospital care team.

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal.  Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected.  The advice for formal carers is included in the home care provision.

What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible.  However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or specialist to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and determine which of these are absolutely essential.

It is possible that your hospital may need to cancel or postpone some clinics and appointments.  You should contact your hospital or clinic to confirm appointments.

What is the advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for you?

Contact regular visitors to your home, such as friends and family to let them know that you are shielding and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you.  Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or feeding.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, inform your care providers that you are shielding and agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe.  You may find this guidance on home care provision useful.

Speak to your carers about backup plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate.  If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help you, you can contact your local council who will be able to help you and assess any social care needs you might have.  Please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for support that you need.

What is the advice for informal carers who provide care for someone who is extremely vulnerable?

If you are caring for someone who is extremely vulnerable due to severe illness from COVID-19, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time.  Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene.

  • only care that is essential should be provided
  • wash your hands on arrival and often, 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
  • do not visit or provide care if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use NHS111 online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 prominently displayed
  • find out about different sources of support that could be used and accessing further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK
  • look after your own well-being and physical health during this time.  Further information on this is available.

How do you look after your mental well-being?

Social isolation, reduction in physical activity, unpredictability and changes in routine can all contribute to increasing stress.  Many people including those without existing mental health needs may feel anxious about this impact including support with daily living, ongoing care arrangements with health providers, support with medication and changes in their daily routines.

If you are receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and are worried about the impact of isolation please contact your keyworker/care coordinator or provider to review your care plan.  If you have additional needs, please contact your key worker or care coordinator to develop a safety or crisis plan.

Understandably, you may find that shielding and distancing can be boring or frustrating.  You may find your mood and feelings are affected and you may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being outside with other people.

At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.  There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time such as:

  • look for ideas of exercises you can do at home on the NHS website
  • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to favourite radio programmes or watching TV
  • try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
  • try spending time with the windows open to let in the fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into any private space, keeping at least 2 metres away from your neighbours and household members if you are sitting on your doorstep
  • Constantly watching the news can make you feel more worried.  If you think it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak.  It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting this to a couple of times a day.
  • Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to and who you get information from.  Every Mind Matters provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health.
  •  

If you are struggling with your mental health.  Please see the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and tools that you can use.  If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online.  If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

What steps can you take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks during this time.  Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online.  Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine.  This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling if you want to.

Remember it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too.  Or you might want try an NHS recommended helpline.

What is the advice for people living in long-term care facilities, either for the elderly or persons with special needs?

The advice also applies to extremely vulnerable persons living in long-term care facilities.  Care providers should carefully discuss this advice with the families, carers and specialist doctors caring for such persons to ensure this guidance is strictly adhered to.

What is the advice for parents and schools with extremely vulnerable children?

The advice also applies to extremely vulnerable children in mainstream and special schools.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) Changes to the Benefits System

There have been big changes to the disability benefits system, due to the outbreak of Covid-19.  Here are the main ones.

Jobcentre appointments

All jobcentre appointments have been cancelled, for three months, or more.  People will continue to receive their unemployment-related benefits as normal, but all the rules about attending the jobcentre appointments in person are suspended.

Reviews and reassessments for benefits

Last week, the government suspended all face-to-face assessments in order to safeguard potentially vulnerable claimants.  Now (as of Tuesday 24 March) the government has suspended all benefit reviews and reassessments – for up to three months.  More information can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

The government says it has done this to reassure ‘vulnerable’ people about the continuity of their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak and ensure the department’s resources are focused on enabling access to financial support for new claimants.

What this means for claimants:

  • there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months – this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for the next 3 months including for any new claims.
  • if you have applied for PIP and already had an assessment your claim will continue to be processed.  If an assessment has been planned but not yet happened, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how their claim will be taken forward.
  • ESA and UC claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take this forward.

However, the DWP is still accepting new claims for all benefits and hopes to cope with the increased numbers of people qualifying for unemployment benefit/Universal Credit by diverting 10,000 jobcentre staff, and recruit 1500 extra people, to deal with new claims.

Those needing to put in a claim for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance should apply online.  For more information visit the Understanding Universal Credit website.

People are being urged to use online services before turning to the telephone for help with any benefit claim.  The government says that only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services by other channels (internet or telephone) will be invited to attend a jobcentre appointment.  The rest of the public must use online services. 

Unfortunately, they have not made it clear what criteria they are using when deciding if a person is vulnerable enough to get an appointment.

Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal.

New Guidance on Statutory Sick Pay

The Government 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 need to produce a fit note or an isolation note.

The government also 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.”

Government

    Other welfare benefit changes

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 limit for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.
  • Suspending 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 amounts 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 limit rule for the self-employed.
  • New PIP, ESA and Attendance Allowance claimants will have priority for telephone and paper-based disability assessments to ensure access to support.
  • The DWP has announced that job centres will remain open so they can continue to support people who cannot go online or use the phone to make claims or get support.
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Update as of 31st March 2020

All NHS staff and care workers in Bristol can now park for free anywhere in the city, in addition to Trenchard Street car park and Horfield Leisure Centre car park.

 Feeding Bristol and various food banks across the city are working with the Council to support those struggling to buy food.

The Council are sending an email to Bristol residents giving them information and advice about coronavirus and any service changes which may impact them.  Please share the newsletter with anyone you think would benefit from it.  There will be an unsubscribe option on each email, and the Council will also publicise on other channels how people can join the mailing list.

 The Council have said they will be launching a public telephone number today, for anyone who is vulnerable, feels isolated and needs support.  The number will be shared widely, both online and through offline communications so that they reach as many people who need the support as possible.  People can also email coronavirus@bristol.gov.uk for support.

Bristol City Council have said they are working closely with health partners to implement national requirements for hospital discharge through a ‘discharge to assess’ model, ensuring that hospital beds are freed up to respond to additional demand. 

They are setting up an Integrated Care Centre in Bristol where social care, Sirona and the voluntary sector will work together to ensure patients are discharged safely to appropriate support.

They have said they are prioritising:

  • Their Rehabilitation Centres, for those needing 24hr care for up to 42 days, when they first leave hospital (Home First);
  • Reablement, short term care support (up to 42 days) and/or adaptations, so you can go straight home; and
  • Home care capacity (the companies the Council has contracts with, to provide care support to people in their own home. 

This means all those who need short term support and want to return home, shouldn’t need to be put in a care home.

If you already get social care support, through and agency, a Direct Payment or a Personal Health Care Budget, your usual support will continue when you return home.

If you and the care provider agree you need more ongoing support than you were getting before going into hospital, you will need to be given a Care Assessment.  If this doesn’t happen before your short term support ends, remind them that you will need that support you to be extended until you have a care package in place.

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Help Bristol Disability Equality Forum to provide telephone support to isolated Disabled people while the UK is in lockdown.

In the words of The Beatles ” Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends 2 and you can help us do just that!

From entertainment packages to fitness equipment and more, you can still support Bristol Disability Equality Forum from home, by shopping online through #easyfundraising. Signing up is quick and easy and you’ll raise free donations for us every time you shop online. Visit http://efraising.org/oxK1dDgKqx to get started.

Every donation enable us to provide telephone support to isolated Disabled people while the UK is in lockdown.

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Struggling with Lockdown? Talk to someone.

Being in lockdown can be very difficult for some people, and severely impact the mental wellbeing of an individual. Don’t suffer with this by yourselves, reach out to someone.

There are plenty of services out there to help with our mental wellbeing. Take a look at the NHS collection of helplines here.

We at the Forum want to make sure that we are able to be there for our membership during these tough times. Because of this, we will be holding weekly check in telephone calls for those who want them.

If you want to book in a specific time and day (please note – our hours are from 11-4 on a Monday, 11-3 on a Tuesday and 11-4.30 on a Wednesday) for a phone call, please email bristoldef@gmail.com with your name and contact number.

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Did you know that, if you have received a letter from the NHS advising you to ‘shield’ (stay indoors for 12 weeks) you still have to register for support?

If you haven’t registered, and do need some support, register online here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or by calling 0800 0288327, as soon as you can.

If you have registered but haven’t received a call from Bristol City Council, do you need emergency food? 

If you do, email (or ask someone to email on your behalf explaining you need telephone calls only): coronavirus@bristol.gov.uk , marking the subject heading as URGENT. 

That way they can then contact you directly to assess your needs. As of next week there will be a phone line to call as well.

Have registered but do not need emergency food?

If so, please call the Government on 0800 0288327 to check if your registration happened correctly.

Important

This advice is only for those people who have been written to by the NHS advising them they are at high risk of complications if they get the coronavirus, and to stay home for 12 weeks.

If you haven’t received a letter like this from the NHS but need support go to: https://candobristol.co.uk/ where you can find people happy to help you as a volunteer.      

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Latest changes as of 24th March 2020

The number of UK cases of the virus can be viewed on this dashboard.

The Government have announced further measures to stop the disease spreading between households [link]. People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

The police will have the powers to enforce these measures, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, the Government has:

  • closed all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • stopped all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • stopped all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed. The full list of businesses and premises expected to close is available here [link].

The Government has said it will look again at these measures in 3 weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.  Updated guidance on staying at home and away from others has been published alongside this announcement [link].

The Foreign Secretary has also advised all British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad to return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available [link].

For businesses, the Government has announced additional measures in the emergency Coronavirus Bill to protect commercial tenants from eviction who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus. The measures will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. As commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent after this period, the Government is monitoring the impact on commercial landlords’ cash flow and continues to be in dialogue with them.  [link].

The legislation also includes new measures to support Business Improvement  Districts (BID)  – to ensure no area loses its BID during this period, the legislation will allow a delay to ballots between now and 31 December 2020 until March 2021.

Further guidance has also been issued on:

  • Guidance for local authorities on eligibility and delivery of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) [link]
  • Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of COVID-19 [link]
  • Operational guidance for further education (FE) providers on maintaining education and skills training provision [link]
  • As of today, reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months

 Bristol Cases

  • As of 12.00pm on 24/03/20 there have been 28 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bristol.
  • Please note, the Government has decided not to test people with mild symptoms who do not require hospitalisation
  • The figures do not reflect the extent of spread within the community, which is now assumed to be widespread.  It is this widespread community transmission which makes the current social distancing measures so vitally important, and why the message for people to self-isolate needs to be continued to be conveyed by Members and Stakeholders
  • Local authority numbers of confirmed cases are reported on this dashboard and updated each afternoon

 Bristol City Council

  • We are advising staff to observe the latest government advice about working from home where they can, although we need to continue delivering essential front line services to our communities.
  • To help manage maintain these services, HR colleagues are working with managers of services that are currently closed to identify colleagues that can be reassigned to work in other parts of the organisation.

Public Communication Updates

  • Mayor Marvin Rees, Jacqui Jensen (Executive Director of People, Bristol City Council) and Sandra (CEO, Voscur) showed a short video last from 6:30pm on the key messages surrounding Can Do Bristol and offering help as a volunteer in an organised way. Jacqui and Sandra then followed up from the video with a live Q+A session on the BCC Facebook page, answering questions from the public. There were almost 100 comments on the video with plenty of questions from keen volunteers looking to get stuck into helping out in their local communities as quickly as possible: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/videos/583573612243951/
  • Mayor Marvin Rees released another bulletin video, announcing: a call out for 450 places for homeless and rough sleepers, that all parks facilities are now shut, and that NHS staff will be able to use Trenchard Street car park for free: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/videos/210671416703326/
  • A further statement from the Mayor was released to clarify the closure of parks facilities – we are not able to close parklands: https://www.facebook.com/BristolCouncil/photos/a.533536933346377/3145840972115947/?type=3&theater
  • A press release was issued to reinforce the call out for homeless spaces from Airbnb’s, shelters, hotels, and student accommodation providers. People were encouraged to email covid19.accommodation@bristol.gov.uk if they could help: https://news.bristol.gov.uk/news/bristol-city-council-calls-on
  • Mayor Marvin Rees shared his blog platform with Cllr Steve Pearce to share thanks and gratitude to all of the Bristol Waste staff who do their utmost to keep our city clean and tiday: https://thebristolmayor.com/2020/03/23/big-tidy/
  • Bristol 24/7 have continued their live updates on the Coronavirus situation in Bristol, supporting BCC and Mayoral messages: https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/news/coronavirus-live-updates-march-24-2020-uk-goes-into-lockdown
  • Allotments: we know allotments are a good way for many people to exercise, so Bristol City Council are continuing to keep them open for now, although some facilities an site (e.g. toilets) will now be closed.
  • Bristol food businesses still operating: Environmental Health have been in regular contact with businesses and a letter is being sent from our Director of Public Health to give clear advice for businesses that are looking to make provision for takeaways and deliveries.

Bristol Volunteering  

  • The following short-link should be used to direct citizens to helping others and volunteering information: www.bristol.gov.uk/wearebristol
  • Videos about volunteering safely are now available in Arabic, Bengali, Kurdish, Polish, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu at the link above. Please do share them.
  • Questions and answers from Sandra and Jacqui’s Q&A on Facebook last night can be viewed here in comments below the video which is pinned to the top of our page: www.facebook.com/bristolcouncil
  • We are updating ourguidance for volunteering page in light of new guidance from government
  • We are supporting the Communities and Neighbourhoods team to improve functionality of the Can Do Bristol website to make it more accessible and easy to use

Bristol Education Sector

  • Last night’s additional information and advice, in relation to social-distancing, will inevitably create increased pressure for head teachers 
  • The current ask of schools and settings to provide childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children has not changed and, where possible, continue with the same arrangements as yesterday
  • We do not know if we will receive any further information today, specifically for schools and settings
  • We contacted many head teachers yesterday to discuss individual positions and we will continue with those calls today; their feedback was extremely useful and there were a number of common questions and concerns. We are working on circulating a bulletin to all schools by the end of the day today.
  • The communications team are also working with a number of service leads to co-ordinate key messages to parents.

Bristol Social Care Sector

  • The majority of frontline Social Work/Occupational Therapy teams are now working from home and only undertaking essential visits.  We are prioritising resources to respond to urgent need – and supporting the demand in hospitals and ‘front door’ provision.  We are no longer undertaking any non-urgent Deprivation of Liberty Assessments (DOLS) as most care homes are closed.
  • There is a dedicated response set up for Direct Payment users, to ensure they have enough support and can access Protective Personal Equipment (packs are being made available). We have also raised this nationally for advice.
  • Care services are now operating with increasing staff absence due to self-isolation or sickness (25% or more) – we are deploying care staff across all services to keep services running.  We have requested urgent redeployment of staff and are working with HR on recruitment drive through Proud to Care.
  • The Commissioning team is working closely with all care providers to ensure they are operating safely, managing and sharing resources and supporting individual homes where there are several residents with Covid-19 (currently 2).
  • We are working closely with health partners to implement the national requirements for hospital discharge.
  • Additional Government funding is available for Local Authorities for emergency response – a proposal has been prepared for internal BCC sign-off.

Bristol Children’s Services Sector

  • The Children’s Services team are reviewing all risk assessments and adjusting the way in which we see/work with children and families with statutory intervention changing to virtual and telephone contact where possible.
  • PPE is in place where face to face visits are still required and COVID-19 symptoms are present.
  • A reduced capacity across the service means that the Early Help Offer is currently limited.
  • We are pushing information out through local networks and the local offer website for parents and practitioners.
  • Dynamic assessment and reprioritisation is being carried out daily.
  • Assessment and reprioritisation with partners is taking place twice – three times each week.
  • Significant concerns are being raised re: food distribution, costs to families of keeping children home (utility, rent and other bills), inability of poorer families to stay in touch as access to things like free Wi-Fi through communal settings is limited/non-existent.
  • We are attending to contextual risks for young people through reviewed risk assessment and multiagency safety plans – community safety measures are being reviewed (including risk of domestic violence and impact on children).

Bristol Business Sector and Economy

  • The City Office is working with the Economic Development Team, One City Economy Board and Business West to establish mechanisms for city partner organisations to strategically support the city’s economic recovery
  • A current priority for Bristol City Council is to cancel the payments due to be called by direct debit in April for businesses entitled to 100% relief. Discounts will apply as per following guidance: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/business-rates/budget-2020-new-rate-discounts
  • The council is looking to process small business grants (£25k) ASAP. We know that we have circa 5k business who could benefit from this based on those paying business rates. However only 400 have actively requested this so far. Where possible we want to make this available to all ASAP. All we require are business rate account number and bank details for payment by BACs. Please do highlight via your networks to ensure all businesses can benefit. As a council we will promote via our networks and social channels
  • Support can be found at WECA’s Growth Hub which has has set up key information and contacts here https://www.wearegrowth.co.uk
  • We are working with local networks and awaiting further guidance to address key sectors and areas such as the self-employed and help available beyond universal credit and income tax / VAT relief

Bristol Travel Sector

  • Effective from 30th March – First West of England will introduce an emergency timetable to apply on Monday to Saturday. This is a reduction in frequencies to all services, mostly to half hourly or hourly frequency. These frequencies could reduce further in the evenings.
  • We are awaiting schedules for full details and will summarise the picture when we receive them.
  • It is envisaged that an emergency timetable for Sundays / Public Holidays will be introduced for Sunday 5 April 2020.
  • The service changes planned for 5 April have been suspended, including the proposed introduction of service 2A.
  • Travelwest is the main source of information for bus service updates – Real Time Information screens are not predicting and are referring passengers to Travelwest for up to date information. Travelwest will be updated as service levels change.
  • Should we have stability of timetable we will review how best to utilise the RTI screens.
  • To be aware – an issue raised recently about handwashing facilities at Bristol bus station has now been resolved.
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The Forum’s first coronavirus success!


We have just read that Bristol City Councilb has responded to our calls for more support to those on Direct Payments.  In particular they have set up a dedicated response for Direct Payment users, to ensure they have enough support and can access Protective Personal Equipment (packs are being made available).

Bristol City Council tells us they have also raised this nationally for advice – something else we asked them to do.


It is good to know that the Council is responding positively when we lay out what our coronavirus-related needs are. 


Let us hope they continue to do so after the government suspends the Care Act!

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Disability Advice and Support

The world is full of uncertainty right now, if you are a Disabled person help can still be available to you.

Advice for those on Direct Payments

General advice:

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