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Practical and emotional support

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Practical support if you're at high risk or shielding

This page explains how to get support with food, medicine, work and money.

Shielding for adults and children who are clinically extremely vulnerable has been paused in all countries of the UK. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland this happened on 1 August 2020, and in Wales, on 16 August 2020.

The pausing of shielding measures means that some practical support that was previously available has been withdrawn. However, there is still help available if your healthcare team advises you to continue taking extra precautions, or if you decide to take extra precautions to protect yourself or someone else in your household.

The shielding patient list

The shielding patient list is the list of people who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and therefore at higher risk of serious complications if they get coronavirus. Being on this list has been the main way to qualify for help since the coronavirus outbreak started in the UK. So what happens now that shielding has been generally paused in the UK?

If you’re newly diagnosed with blood cancer, or your situation changes and your healthcare team or GP think you’re at high risk, your name can still be added to the shielding patient list. Similarly, if you think you should be on the shielding list but still haven't had a letter, speak to your healthcare team, as they will be able to add you to the list if necessary.

Being on the shielding list is important because it means if shielding guidelines are reintroduced, or if there’s a lockdown in your local area, you will be able to get support with things like food and medicine deliveries.

Food deliveries

Government food packages for people on the shielding patient list have stopped in all countries of the UK.

You should still be able to get priority food deliveries from supermarkets:

  • If you registered for government support with food deliveries on or before 17 July, you will continue to get priority supermarket slots for home delivery.
  • If you’ve been added to the shielding patient list after government support ended, most supermarkets will give you priority delivery slots if the national advice to shield comes back, or if there’s a lockdown in your local area.
  • Some supermarkets are offering priority delivery slots to people who were added to the shielding list after 17 July. Contact the supermarket directly or get in touch with your local authority.
  • Some supermarkets are offering vulnerable people next day delivery of a box of essential food and cleaning supplies. Check supermarket websites for details.
  • Depending on which part of the UK you live in, volunteer groups may also be able to support you with food deliveries. Contact your local authority or search online for local support.

If you feel comfortable about going shopping again, then think about going at less busy times, if you can. Sometimes supermarkets publish information on peak and quiet times in their stores. They also have information on the steps they are taking to protect shoppers.

Supermarket contact details

Here are the phone numbers we know about to call (make sure you create an online account with the supermarket first):

  • Asda – call 0800 0281 966 for priority online deliveries
  • Morrisons – call 0345 611 6111 for their doorstep delivery service (essential items)
  • Sainsbury’s – call 0800 052 5500 for priority online deliveries
  • Tesco – call 0800 917 7359 for priority online deliveries

Other supermarkets are also prioritising vulnerable customers - check individual websites for more information.

You can see the latest updates on what all supermarkets are doing on this live page from the British Retail Consortium.

Getting medicines

Here are some ways to get the medicines you need:

  • Many GPs let you request repeat prescriptions via email, phone or their website. Contact your GP to find out the easiest way for you.
  • Contact your pharmacy if you need a volunteer to deliver your medication to you.
  • In England, register for help from the NHS Volunteer Responders, who can deliver food and medication. Carers can also apply on behalf of someone else, or for support for themselves to fulfil their caring role.
  • In Wales, the prescription delivery service will continue until the end of September. After that time, Third Sector Wales will help you get in touch with local voluntary organisations who are offering help.
  • If you need urgent support, contact your local authority and tell them your situation.

Key contacts for government and local authority support

If you are vulnerable and need help, here are the key ways to find out about support:

  • In all four nations of the UK, enter your postcode here and you’ll be linked to your local authority’s website with details of the support they are offering.
  • In Scotland, the national COVID-19 helpline is open and will put you in contact with your local authority: call free on 0800 111 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
  • Scotland also has an SMS Shielding Service which sends information and updates on your risk of being exposed to coronavirus in your area via text.
  • In Northern Ireland you can call the free COVID-19 community helpline on 0808 802 0020, email [email protected] or text ACTION to 81025.

Support from voluntary organisations

  • In England, you can register for help from the NHS Volunteer Responders.
  • In Wales, you can contact Third Sector Wales for help from local voluntary organisations.
  • There are local groups and charities offering support to anyone who needs it - contact your local authority to find out what's available or search online.

Work

Now that shielding has been paused, financial support schemes for workers who were shielding have also been paused:

  • You can no longer be on furlough on the basis that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable. You can still furlough for other reasons allowed by the furlough scheme though. If you've been on furlough before, your employer may be happy to put you on furlough again, so it’s worth asking.
  • You can no longer claim Statutory Sick Pay if you are off work on the basis of being advised to shield by the government.
  • If your GP or healthcare team believe you're not able to work, they can give you a fit note in the normal way. This gives you access to Statutory Sick Pay.
  • You can get Statutory Sick Pay if you’re self-isolating due to coronavirus symptoms.

Government guidance says that employers should still make every effort to allow you to work from home. Talk to your employer about how best to manage this, and remember that you do have rights as a person with cancer under UK disability laws.

You should only go to work if:

  • you cannot work from home
  • your workplace is COVID-safe.

Read more about your rights at work, what COVID-safe means, tips for talking to your employer, and where to get expert advice.

If you are self-employed, you can still get support from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. You can also find out more about other financial support.

Money

If you are unemployed, there are various benefits available in the UK, such as Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

To find out more about benefits you may be entitled to, ask your GP, clinical nurse specialist or doctor. You can also contact Citizens Advice on 0344 411 1444 or Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00.

There are many other ways you can save money:

  • You can get support with health-related costs (such as travel costs and prescriptions).
  • You may be able to access financial support from charities.
  • It may be possible to agree adjustments to payment schedules with energy suppliers or mortgage lenders.

See our page on Money and work for more about all of these options.

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]