RNIB Access to shopping update
Since lockdown began, thousands of blind and partially sighted people have told us that they are concerned about access to food. Shopping in supermarkets or securing online delivery slots is an ongoing and significant challenge.
We wanted to update you on the support available and our work with the Government and supermarkets to improve the situation.
Support through our Helpline
You can call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you, or someone you know, has difficulty shopping for essential supplies. Our advisers can provide the latest information and can connect you to sources of local support.
We now have agreements in place which mean that our Helpline advisers may be able to refer people who are eligible to Tesco or Iceland for priority online delivery slots in England. This is particularly for people who are unable to access food and have no local family or friends who can help them shop. If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland we can advise on other ways to get food and grocery shopping.
You can also find information on our website where we’re regularly updating our essential supermarket round-up, as well as find answers to common shopping questions on Sight Advice FAQ.
As the challenges of food shopping have increased amid the uncertainty around COVID-19, several UK supermarket chains have prioritised opening at certain times of the day for vulnerable and elderly people.
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.
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.
M&S become the first UK retailer to introduce sunflower lanyards into all of its stores. They were followed by Sainsbury’s and Argos. Tesco also announced that they would begin providing sunflower lanyards at all of its stores.
Vangarde Shopping Park in York, intu Trafford Centre in Manchester and Ladysmith Shopping Centre in Ashton-under-Lyne are a number of shopping centres that recognise the scheme. The Mall, which has five shopping centres in Blackburn, Luton, Maidstone, Walthamstow and Wood Green under its umbrella, has adopted the lanyard.
Supermarket Info & Links
Advice: Even where no special exceptions are advertised, please add in the notes section of your order that you are a blind or partially sighted customer
Have launched an on-line grocery service to help vulnerable customers and those self-isolating. They will be providing home delivery parcels containing 22 products including tinned soup, rice and pasta. Each parcel will also include antibacterial handwash and a four-pack of toilet roll. The parcels which are only available online at are priced at £24.99 inclusive of delivery and are limited to one per customer. Please be aware they are in very high demand.
From Monday to Saturday, the German supermarket chain will be open between 8 am and 8 pm. Sunday opening hours remain the same – 10 am to 4 pm (or 6 pm in Scotland).
As of 28th March, Aldi has opted to give priority access to emergency workers at any time of the day. That means that as people queue to access a store (due to social distancing rules meaning that fewer customers are allowed in at once) NHS staff and 999 workers will be able to come to the front.
To check your local store, visit: aldi.co.uk
Have launched a food box containing supplies that have been in high demand during the pandemic, including cereal, bread, pasta, tinned fruit and vegetables, sauces, jam, teabags and long-life milk.
They are available now on foodboxes.asda.com and typically contain around 31 store cupboard staples for £30 (including delivery). The box will be delivered direct to your doorstep within two days of you placing the order.
Asda has placed limits on the amounts of certain products individual shoppers can buy.
Asda has revealed it is closing its 24-hour stores between 12 am and 6 am on a temporary basis. The supermarket will also be prioritising NHS workers in larger stores every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 am to 9 am.
To check your local store’s opening hours, visit: storelocator.asda.com
Asda Volunteer Shopping Card
It’s a brilliant way of enabling a support worker or volunteer to do your shopping, without having to divulge any card details or give cash.
Find out more: http://asda.com/volunteercard
If you have to stay at home
The Volunteer Shopping Card is great because it’s easy to:
• buy online
• send to your volunteer or print and leave for them in a safe place
• stay secure—no bank or credit card details are exchanged
• be safer as you’re not handing over cash
• Can be topped with extra funds online
If you’re volunteering
The Volunteer Shopping Card is ideal because:
• you’re not exchanging cash
• you’re still able to help, whilst minimising risk for you both
• you don’t need to know the person’s bank or credit card details
• you can use the card contactlessly in-store using a barcode
How it works
The Volunteer Shopping Card can be bought easily online
It can then be emailed to the volunteer or printed out and left in a safe place for the volunteer to pick up
The volunteer then shops using the card, makes the payment using the barcode in store, and leaves the shopping in a safe place.
Find out more: http://asda.com/volunteercard
Midcounties Co-op has launched a delivery service for vulnerable people who are isolating at home. You can select products from a list of basic essentials including bread, milk, cheese, apples, ready meals, soup, pasta, beans, medicine and pet food. Contact Co-op’s Midcounties Membership Team or your local store by phone. They will call back within four hours to let you know what items are available, give you a delivery window, and take your payment over the phone.
All of its stores have a dedicated shopping hour for those at higher risk and the people who care for them.
Co-op announced that it will be offering priority shopping to the vulnerable and those who care for them from Monday to Saturday 8 am – 9 am and Sunday 10 am – 11 am.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: finder.coop.co.uk/food
Co-op is restricting purchases to two per customer on some products, including hand sanitiser, soap, tinned goods, pasta, rice, long-life milk, sugar, baby food and nappies.
Online orders have been limited to customers who are over state pension age, self-isolating and other vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities.
Iceland will open its supermarkets early for elderly customers to visit before stores open to the public.
Each day, elderly shoppers can now visit between 8 am – 9 am to get their shopping first. The final hour of trading Monday to Saturday will also be for NHS staff only.
To check local store’s opening times, visit iceland.co.uk.
The supermarket is opening an hour earlier than usual in order to let elderly customers do their shopping.
To check the opening times of your local Lidl, visit: lidl.co.uk/about-us/store-finder-opening-hours
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer have teamed up with Deliveroo to make a range of their food products available for home deliveries, via selected BP M&S stores. They have also introduced a selection of five food boxes ranging from £15 to £45 for home delivery.
It has set aside the first hour of trading on Mondays and Thursdays for older and vulnerable customers.
M&S has announced that it will give the first hour of every Tuesday and Friday morning to NHS and emergency service workers.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: marksandspencer.com/
Morrisons Have a new dedicated telesales shopping service aimed specifically at helping to ensure vulnerable and elderly people can get the groceries they need. Call 0345 611 6111 and select option five, you will then be able to select from 47 essential groceries including milk, butter, eggs, potatoes, pasta, bananas, cornflakes and flour. Delivery should be made the following day and you can pay for the delivery on your doorstep via a mobile chip and pin device. Please visit the website for further information.
Morrisons is expanding its home delivery service and introducing new ways of delivering groceries and more slots for customers, which will also help vulnerable people and those affected by the virus.
The supermarket has introduced an NHS hour at all of their stores every day, Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 8 am.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit groceries.morrisons.com
Although opening times haven’t changed, different Nisa stores are offering help to the elderly and vulnerable, by offering extended services to customers, including free deliveries.
To check opening hours for your local store, visit: nisalocally.co.uk/stores/
you can also order online through:
Even where no special exceptions are advertised, please add in the notes section of your order that you are a blind or partially sighted customer.
Please remember due to many people self-isolating delivery slots are in high demand and waiting times may be high. You may also experience the website becoming unavailable, this is also due to the large volume of people using the service.
From Monday 23rd March, we are consolidating our opening hours and all our supermarkets will be open from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday-Saturday, including those with an Argos store. Sunday opening, Sainsbury’s Local and petrol station opening times will stay the same.”
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all of the chain’s supermarkets will dedicate the hour of 8 am – 9 am to serving elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers.
NHS ID holders have priority Monday to Saturday, from 7.30 am to 8 am.
To find the opening hours for your local store, visit stores.sainsburys.co.uk
Sainsbury’s can be contacted on 0800 9178 557 to place an order over the phone and have it delivered for £2.95. There is a minimum spend of £40.00.
You will need to pay for your shopping with a debit or credit card when placing your order.
To find the opening hours for your local store, visit stores.sainsburys.co.uk
A number of stores are now operating at reduced hours. Some Tesco Extra stores and larger Metro stores have reduced their hours to between 6 am and 10 pm, in order to be able to properly restock overnight.
Tesco introduced a special shopping hour for its workers and NHS staff 22 March. Those eligible will be able to browse an hour before traditional shop opening hours on Sundays, and will have an hour between 9 am and 10 am to shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays at all stores except for Express stores (which are open to everyone at those times).
In a statement, Tesco said: “They can come to our large stores one hour before the usual store opening time every Sunday, and will be able to browse the store and select their shopping before the checkouts open.
“All we ask is that they bring a form of ID with them to store, such as an NHS staff card.”
To check your local Tesco store, visit: tesco.com/store-locator/uk/
Have announced that some of their stores are offering . The service enables shoppers to have up to 25 grocery items delivered within two hours of ordering. However this is only available within certain postcodes.
First hour of store opening to be dedicated to older and vulnerable people and it is exploring ways to offer its services remotely.
Other Food Delivery Options
Natures choice have different fruit and vegetable boxes as well as an essential box containing eggs, milk and bread
Freshways – broad range of goods including dairy https://www.freshways.co.uk/products/
Riverford Foods more expensive but I believe good quality https://www.riverford.co.uk/organic-milk-eggs-and-bread
Are there any alternatives to supermarkets?
If you can’t get out to your supermarket or get a home delivery, you could also try contacting your local:
- Organic shops
- Farm shops
- Pubs and cafes – some local pubs and cafes are starting to offer home delivery of ready-cooked meals
- Milk and Dairy farms – milkmen can often supply more than milk, you can often also get eggs, cheeses and yoghurt.
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
Full Supermarket list 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.dov
- 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/v
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/
COVID-19 – Taxicard Changes
In light of the current situation with the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), we have made changes to the London Taxicard scheme to support Taxicard members at this time.
You can now use your Taxicard for:
- Taxicard drivers to pick up and deliver essential supplies for you; and
- Allow friends and family to travel on your behalf using your Taxicard for the same purpose
How this works:
- Make a booking advising you want a collection of pre-bought items from a supermarket, pharmacy or takeaway etc
- Make a booking advising you want a nominated person to use a taxi on your behalf to purchase or collect essential items on your behalf
- All collections have to pre-paid and an order number provided (if applicable) at the time of booking
- You will be given a cost of the journey and you will have to pay your contribution at time of booking using a debit or credit card
Please note that due to the current situation some supermarkets are imposing strict rules around social distancing and limiting the number of people in-store at one time, you will need to book two journeys if someone is doing a shop on your behalf.
In these circumstances, the driver will not wait while someone shops and a return journey will have to be booked once the shopping has been completed.
Apply for a Taxicard: https://blindsport.uk/TaxiCardApply
Please contact Taxicard on 0207 763 5001 with any queries.
For further information contact London councils by email at: email@example.com
The London Taxicard Scheme
Taxicard is a scheme for London residents with serious mobility impairments or who are severely sight impaired.
Taxicard offers subsidised travel in licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (mini cabs) to London residents with serious mobility impairments or who are severely sight impaired. It enables members who have difficulty in using buses, trains and tubes to get out and about.
The scheme provides trips for social purposes, for example going shopping, visiting friends and family, and going out to events.
Taxicard is funded by your local council and Transport for London. It is administered on their behalf by London Councils, with CityFleet providing taxis via Computer Cab and private hire vehicles (mini cabs) via a number of private hire companies across London.
Taxicard can be used 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year – subject to the availability of vehicles.
Members always pay a minimum contribution towards the fare. Your local authority and Transport for London (TfL) subsidise your journey up to a maximum amount per trip and you have to pay the balance.
Letter sent 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.
Good resource of Online Shopping News
A round-up of information from the major supermarkets can be found on the inews website. Please note that information is subject to change:
INews: Online shopping