Practical Information for Blind & Partially Sighted People!
COVID-19 Guides and Citizen Advice
- An easy read guide to Coronavirus can be found here: Guide
- Sight Advice COVID-19 FAQ: FAQ Link
- 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/
- Citizens Advice has also issued guidance for people needing help at this time. You can find it here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- And here: COVID-19 What it Means to you
- Social welfare law updates can be found here: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/covid19
- Need help with shopping, a prescription collection or just want someone to talk to? Give NHS Volunteer Responders a call 0808 196 3646 (8 am to 8 pm) Visit this website for more info: https://blindsport.uk/NHSResponders
Your shopping environment may be changing
If you are blind or partially sighted and are needing to go to a local supermarket for your essential shopping, please be aware that stores across the country and putting measures in place to protect us all. So, it’s important that you are aware that you may find changes to the environment you are usually used to. These measures could include the following:
- Temporary barriers
- Store reconfiguration (especially near checkouts)
- Floor markings for social distancing
- Perspex screens protecting check-out staff
- Requests for contactless payment methods.
These measures will differ from store to store and may change over time.
Hidden Disability Lanyard
If you have a disability that may not be immediately obvious but would appreciate support from staff when you’re doing your shopping, you may be interested to know there is a lanyard which can signal this. The sunflower lanyard is currently recognised in Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s. Find out more about the lanyard and how you can get one.
A number of supermarkets and retailers started trialling the lanyard in 2018. In September 2019, M&S become the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards into all of its stores. They were followed by Sainsbury’s and Argos, who announced the nationwide rollout of sunflower lanyards in all their stores in October. In December 2019, Tesco also announced that they would begin providing sunflower lanyards at all of its stores.
List of Supermarkets and their website below
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/
Sainsbury’s – latest info
if you are having problems with getting an online home delivery slot with Sainsbury’s the phone number is 0800 052 5500, this contact centre will help you to get a slot & will explain how it works going forward. Call wait times may be substantial.
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.
Sight Advice FAQ Website
On the Sight Advice FAQ website, a resource for blind and partially sighted people supported by RNIB, there is a range of useful information on a variety of subjects including how to arrange shopping deliveries and how to get essential food supplies if you are struggling financially.
Letter to Supermarkets
RNIB, jointly with other sight loss sector charities Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary, has written to supermarket chief executives to ask them how they are helping blind and partially sighted people. While we wait for their responses we have put together information we’ve found online about what they are doing to help disabled customers.
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/
Most communities have now set up support groups to help anyone in self-isolation. This may include shopping for food and collecting prescriptions from the chemist.
Find your local Community helpers
Support is also available through a Government Register. It is free to register if you have a medical condition that makes you vulnerable to the virus. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable
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
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
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.
- 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 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
The Ministry of Housing and Communities has announced plans for emergency legislation to suspend evictions from social or private rented accommodation. More information about the announcement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters
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-
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
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/
Support for self-employed people is so far minimal. 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. There has been additional support promised for self-employed workers but no details yet.
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
Access to Work payment claim process
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 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