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FAQs for people with underlying health conditions and their carers

Last updated: 9 April

The person I care for was sent a letter by the NHS saying that they are in a high risk group and are considered to be an extremely vulnerable person. What does this mean?


The NHS has sent a letter to everyone who they have classed as extremely vulnerable to let them know that they should not leave the house for at least 12 weeks and should follow protective shielding measures. See Government guidance here.

These people 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.

I am classed as an extremely vulnerable person. Do I still have to go in to work? If not, will I be paid?

No you mustn’t go into work. You should remain at home for 12 weeks. Usdaw is working with employers to ensure that workers who are considered extremely vulnerable continue to be paid whilst they are following Government advice and ‘shielding’ at home.

It’s important that you speak to your manager. Your employer should have guidance, policies and procedures in place to protect and support people considered vulnerable or extremely vulnerable. Make sure you follow the procedures in your workplace and raise any queries with your manager or Usdaw rep.

The Government has recently updated their guidance to employers about which workers who are unable to go into work and cannot work from home can be placed on to the new, temporary Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). They have confirmed that employers can in certain circumstances place workers who are shielding (those people who have a health condition which puts them in the extremely vulnerable group) on to the CJRS.

This is a scheme has been set up by Government to temporarily support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). It enables employers to claim back up to 80% of the wages of workers they pay who cannot go into work or work from home.

Who will be placed on the CJRS will depend on several factors. Many employers have alternative arrangements in place to support workers who are shielding and you need to first of all check with your manager or Usdaw rep what support your Company is offering to ‘shielding’ workers. You do not have a right to be placed on the CJRS. This Scheme offers support to employers who would otherwise have to lay workers off or make them redundant and so is viewed by most as a last resort. Whether you will be placed on the Scheme (‘furloughed’) is a decision for your employer. You cannot make this decision yourself nor can you make your employer put you on the Scheme.

The person I care for has received the letter from the NHS telling them to stay at home for 12 weeks. Should I stop caring for them now?

Carers UK advise that if the person you care for has received this letter, the instructions are very clear. They must stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, except from you as their carer and healthcare workers continuing to provide essential medical care.

However, if you start to display any of the symptoms of coronavirus you must suspend your face-to-face visits. If this means that the person you care for will be even more vulnerable, for example because they will no longer receive the essential supplies that you bring them, the government has set up a dedicated helpline for vulnerable people seeking additional care.

If you have received an NHS letter or are caring for someone who has, you can register for further support here www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call 0800 028 8327, the Government’s new dedicated helpline. In Scotland, see the NHS Inform website for guidance – this also has a useful FAQ section. In Northern Ireland, you can access advice, help and guidance by emailing [email protected] or texting: ACTION to 81025.

Even if you are not showing symptoms, the government has advised people to stop non-essential contact with others and all unnecessary travel.

I am caring for someone who is on the extremely vulnerable persons list and I am worried about putting them at risk by continuing to go into work? Do I still have to go to work? If I don’t will I still be paid?

Government advice for those who live with or care for an extremely vulnerable person is that you are not required to follow the protective shielding measures for yourself however you should still be following the stringent social distancing guidelines and good hygiene practices.

If you are classed as an essential worker, as many Usdaw members are who work in food retail, warehousing and distribution and you are not able to follow stringent social distancing at your workplace because of the nature of your job, or you don’t feel comfortable about continuing to work then you should speak to your manager. Your employer should have policies and procedures in place to support carers of extremely vulnerable people.

Managers should be supportive. They should consider requests on a case by case basis and explore all available options including whether you might use holidays or annual leave or whether there is any suitable, alternative work available for you to do that enables you to follow the strict social distancing guidelines set out by Government and so safely go to work. This might mean for example rearranging your hours to a time when customers aren’t allowed in store (such as early in the morning or later in the evening / at night) or when there is less ‘footfall’. You might want to explore with your manager whether there are alternative roles available such as ‘backstock’ or working in the petrol station where payment is made at the pump and contact with the public is via the hatch.

All workplaces should be adhering to strict social distancing rules. If you are concerned that social distancing measures are not being strictly observed in your workplace or you don’t feel you have been offered the support you need to sufficiently protect the person you are caring for speak to your Usdaw rep, contact your Area Organiser or call the Usdaw helpline on 0800 030 80 30.

The Government has recently updated their guidance to employers about which workers who are unable to go into work and cannot work from home can be placed on the new, temporary Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). They have confirmed that employers can, in certain circumstances, place workers who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) on to the CJRS.

This is a scheme has been set up by Government to temporarily support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). It enables employers to claim back up to 80% of the wages of workers they pay who cannot go into work or work from home.

Who will be placed on the CJRS will depend on several factors. Many employers have alternative arrangements in place to support workers who are caring and so you need to first of all check what support your Company is offering to carers of people who are ‘shielding’.

You do not have a right to be placed on the CJRS. This Scheme offers support to employers who would otherwise have to lay workers off or make them redundant and so is viewed by most as a last resort. Whether you will be placed on the Scheme (‘furloughed’) is a decision for your employer. You cannot make this decision yourself nor can you make your employer put you on the Scheme.

For more information about how to protect someone you care for visit Carers UK at www.carersuk.org or contact their helpline by calling 0808 808 7777.

As a carer am I entitled to claim any benefits if I am too worried to go to work because I live with and / or care for an extremely vulnerable person and I am not being paid?

If you are a working-age carer who earns below £128 a week or is unable to work because of your caring commitments you may be able to claim Carer's Allowance. Carer’s Allowance is paid at a weekly rate of £67.25.

  • It isn’t affected by any savings you may have.
  • It can be paid to carers in part-time paid work.
  • The person you care for doesn’t have to be a relative but could be a friend or neighbour.
To qualify you must be:
 
  • Looking after someone for at least 35 hours a week*; and
  • Earning less than £128 per week; and
  • The person you are looking after must be getting a ‘qualifying benefit’. This means they must be in receipt of:
(a) The middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance; or
(b) The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment;
or
(c) Attendance Allowance.

* Carers UK advise that during the Covid-19 pandemic, new measures (from 30 March) allow unpaid carers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets coronavirus or if they have to self-isolate because of it. This is also being introduced in Scotland.

The Government has also confirmed that providing emotional support counts towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This:
 
  • applies to carers who live in a different household from the disabled person and whose only contact with them is now going to be in the form of emotional support via the telephone and social media.
  • applies to new claims as well as for those already receiving Carer's Allowance.

To find out more about Carer’s Allowance and to claim visit www.gov.uk/carers-allowance or call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297. You can also find put more about Carer’s Allowance by visiting Carers UK at www.carersuk.org. or calling their helpline on 0808 808 7777 (see below for further details).

Your claim for Carers Allowance must be made in writing on the correct form.

Carer’s Allowance is due to be replaced in Scotland by carer’s assistance. When it is introduced, it will be paid at the same rate as job seekers allowance. Until it is introduced a Carer’s Allowance supplement is paid to people who are resident in Scotland. It is in paid in two lump sum payments each year and is adjusted annually to take account of inflation. It will be paid automatically to carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance – you do not need to make a separate claim.

If you get Carer's Allowance, or have an underlying entitlement to it, you may then become entitled to Universal Credit.

To find out more about Universal Credit and to claim visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit. Calims for Universal Credit must be made online. If you need help claiming online, call the UC helpline, free of charge, on 0800 328 5644 (Monday to Friday 8 am to 6pm)

If you are newly claiming benefits it is likely that you would be claiming Universal Credit. If you are already receiving one or more of the means-tested benefits below (known as legacy benefits) you may be entitled to more of these benefits. This is because getting Carer’s Allowance or having an underlying entitlement to it means that an extra amount of money called the 'carers premium/addition' is included in the calculation of the means-tested benefits you apply for.

Legacy benefits

  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction
Remember that means-tested benefits including Universal Credit take into account how much income and savings you and your household have.

You can do an online check of your entitlement to benefits by visiting https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators or by contacting Citizens Advice national phoneline on 03444 111 444.

The Union can help members who are caring with questions and/or problems where they relate to the workplace / your work. We cannot advise on entitlement to social security benefits. For more information about benefits you might be entitled to whilst caring visit Carers UK website at www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/other-working-age-benefits.

Carers UK provide information and guidance to carers on a range of subjects including:
  • Benefits and financial support.
  • Your rights as a carer in the workplace.
  • Carers' assessments and how to get support in your caring role.
  • Services available to carers and the people you care for.
  • How to complain effectively and challenge decisions.

Carers UK ask you to email them at: [email protected]

If you would prefer to speak to somebody on the phone, their information helpline for carers can guide you towards services and organisations that can offer support. They are not always able to provide the same level of specialist advice by telephone as they can by email however they do have a telephone helpline which is available on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10am – 4pm and can be called on 0808 808 7777.

I don’t have a health condition which makes me extremely vulnerable but I do have a condition which makes me ‘vulnerable’. Do I still have to go into work? Can I stay at home and still be paid?

According to Government guidance, people that fall into the categories listed below are classed as vulnerable.

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds): o chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen - for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • those who are pregnant

It's important that you speak to your manager. Your employer should have guidance and procedures in place to protect and support people considered vulnerable. Make sure you follow the procedures in your workplace and raise any queries with your manager or Usdaw rep.

As Public Health guidance strongly advises everyone who appears on the list above to stay at home (see link below) your employer must allow you to work from home wherever possible. If it isn't possible for you to do your current job at home your manager should discuss with you whether there is any other work they can give you (that is both suitable and appropriate) for you to do at home. For most Usdaw members, many of whom are classed as ‘essential workers’ during the Pandemic it simply isn’t practical to work from home. See the question below for what to do if isn’t practical for you to work from home and you have an underlying health condition that places you in the vulnerable group.

If you are pregnant please see Usdaw’s FAQ’s ‘Pregnant Women at Work and Coronavirus’.

What if I can't do my job from home?

Usdaw has been working with employers to ensure that the health and wellbeing of all members is protected. Many of the companies with whom we have agreements have either adjusted existing policies and procedures or put new ones in place that specifically deal with the issue of coronavirus and the implications for workers who are considered vulnerable or extremely vulnerable and those who live with and / or care for them.

It is therefore very important that you inform your manager of the fact that you have a condition that places you into the vulnerable group as soon as possible. Ask your manager for guidance and details of their policy on vulnerable or extremely vulnerable groups and follow their procedures.

Managers should be supportive. They should consider requests on a case by case basis and explore all available options including whether you might use holidays or annual leave or whether there is any suitable, alternative work available for you to do that enables you to follow the strict social distancing guidelines set out by Government and so safely go to work. This might mean for example rearranging your hours to a time when customers aren’t allowed in store (such as early in the morning or later in the evening / at night) or when there is less ‘footfall’. You might want to explore with your manager whether there are alternatives roles available such as ‘backstock’ or working in the petrol station where payment is made at the pump and contact with the public is via the hatch.

All workplaces should be adhering to strict social distancing rules. If you are concerned that social distancing measures are not being strictly observed in your workplace or you don’t feel you have been offered the support you need to keep yourself safe speak to your Usdaw rep, contact your Area Organiser or call the Usdaw helpline on 0800 030 80 30.

I am caring for someone who is on the vulnerable person’s list and I am worried about putting them at risk by continuing to go into work? Do I still have to go to work? If I don’t will I still be paid?

Government guidance is that if you are designated a ‘key’ or essential worker as many Usdaw members are then, as long as neither you nor the person you care for are displaying symptoms you should continue to attend work however you should still be following the stringent social distancing guidelines and good hygiene practices.

If you are not able to follow stringent social distancing at your workplace because of the nature of your job, or you don’t feel comfortable about continuing to work then you should speak to your manager. Your employer should have policies and procedures in place to support carers of vulnerable people.

Managers should be supportive. They should consider requests on a case by case basis and explore all available options including whether you might use holidays or annual leave or whether there is any suitable, alternative work available for you to do that enables you to follow the strict social distancing guidelines set out by Government and so safely go to work.

This might mean for example rearranging your hours to a time when customers aren’t allowed in store (such as early in the morning or later in the evening / at night) or when there is less ‘footfall’. You might want to explore with your manager whether there are alternative non-public facing roles available.

All workplaces should be adhering to strict social distancing rules. If you are concerned that social distancing measures are not being strictly observed in your workplace or you don’t feel you have been offered the support you need to sufficiently protect the person you are caring for speak to your Usdaw rep, contact your Area Organiser or call the Usdaw helpline on 0800 030 80 30.

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