May 19th Update - Advice And Support From The Trust For All Beneficiaries
I hope that you have managed to make sense of the revised Government Guidance for England as we have been told that we are entering the next stage of the lockdown, with some limited changes having been introduced from Wednesday 13 May.
Please note that for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the guidance remains to Stay At Home. More details can be found on the relevant government websites:
Here is a brief summary of the main points for England:
Firstly, if you are one of the people who received a letter from the Government, from your GP or from another health service to let you know that you are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, the advice has not changed. You should still be shielding for the full 12 weeks until the end of June and it does look like that timescale is likely to be extended. Living under these conditions can be very stressful, but lots of support is available from the Trust and from other organisations – for more information see the section on Coping with Isolation further down this update.
If you are not shielding, you should still stay at home as much as possible, however there are a limited number of things you can now do that you could not do before:
- Spend unlimited time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing
- Meet one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines
- Exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines
- Use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart
- Go to a garden centre
At all times, you should continue to observe social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home, including ensuring you are 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. As with before, you cannot:
- Visit friends and family in their homes
- Exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool
- Use an outdoor gym or playground
- Visit a private or ticketed attraction
- Gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in law (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations)
As always, if you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should stay at home - this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.
Going To Work
The Government has advised that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so for the foreseeable future (see below for how the Trust is responding to this guidance).
However, people who cannot work from home have been told they should go to work and the Government has now allowed a range of additional businesses to open – such as garden centres and non-essential shops, as well as construction sites.
People travelling to work have been told to avoid public transport if at all possible and have been advised to wear face masks, although this is not compulsory. There is more information about face masks below.
We are aware that some of you have a partner or family member who lives with you and who may now be required to go back to work in a customer facing role and that this may understandably be causing you extreme anxiety. If this is the case, the first step is to contact your GP and ask them if they will provide a letter for your family member’s employer advising them of your vulnerability and asking them to make alternative arrangements or allow them to continue to furlough. If your GP is unable to help you, please contact the Trust and we will provide a letter setting out your vulnerabilities and asking that you be supported in this way.
Recent Government guidance has suggested a face mask be worn when travelling on public transport, when in some shops and in other enclosed spaces where social distancing of two metres is not possible. It is not recommended to wear a mask outdoors and you do not need to wear one at work. If you have any condition that causes difficulties breathing then you should not wear a mask.
The mask is to protect others, not yourself, because it is thought you can spread the virus before you show symptoms. Wearing a mask should not give you a false sense of security. Frequent hand washing and maintaining social distancing measures where possible, are still more important than wearing a mask. A mask may however, help to reduce the spread in the community.
Wearing a mask doesn't mean you can take more risks or increase your contact with others.
The Government have asked that you do not buy medical grade masks as these should be reserved for NHS workers or care home workers. Instead they have suggested preferably, that they are homemade and washable.
Masks themselves have risks. It is very important to wash your hands before putting your mask on; not to touch your face when wearing a mask and to take it off without touching the mask itself. If you are using a reusable mask, the dirty mask should be put in a bag until washed and you should wash your hands again.
Can Someone Make A Mask For Me?
Janet Grant and Kate Saunders, both beneficiaries, are currently making masks and would be happy to make a mask for you free of charge. The mask will be sent in the post to you via the Trust office so you don’t have to share your address. If you would like a face mask please contact the Trust and we will arrange this for you.
Particular Difficulties With Wearing And Using A Face Mask
We appreciate some of you will not be able to put on a mask or adjust it because of your short reach. In addition we know that some of you will find it difficult to wash a mask.
We have found an alternative product as a result of research by Roz Hepple, one of our beneficiaries – this is a Face Shield built on to a hat and you can see an example product here.
Other face mask options with different methods of fitting
Tube face coverings:-
Head fixed design:-
Ear fixed designs:-
Copper infused mask:-
If you are interested in a Face Shield and are unable to find one to purchase, please contact us and we will talk to Demand about printing some.
We have also checked with colleagues in Japan where masks are more commonly used and it is accepted there that some people cannot wear them. If this is the case with you, there are a number of suggestions to help you with this:
- We are including information on your difficulties with masks in our communication with the major supermarkets to request access to priority online shopping
- You could stick to a favourite shop and have a word with the management and ask them to be aware you will not be wearing one whilst shopping in their store. The Trust can provide a letter of support for this purpose.
- There are a number of online tutorials about how to make a mask and we have links to these on the website forum. In addition Phil Williams has produced some information on how to make a mask that can be worn if you have no ears. The instructions can be found here together with Phil’s blog.
Advance Care Planning – What If I Get Ill?
A number of beneficiaries have spoken to us about their concerns about treatment if they become ill with Covid-19. This is a sensitive and anxious topic for many people at this time, but particularly so if you feel that assumptions may be made about your quality of life because you have a disability, or if you know that things like taking blood and monitoring blood pressure will be difficult. So although we are not aware of any beneficiary who has been positively tested for Covid-19, we talked to the NAC who thought that it would be useful to share some information with you about advance care planning and particularly a Covid-19 Advance Care Plan.
A Covid-19 Advance Care Plan is a page of information written by you, with your family or friends (or somebody else, including a member of the Trust staff if you need help). It is a place to write down quickly and in one place, the thoughts and wishes you have on the care and support you would like if you develop severe Covid-19 symptoms.
Some of you may have already made a general advance care plan or a care and support plan and, if you have, then making a Covid-19 plan will not replace this, it will just be used specifically for a diagnosis of Covid-19. So you may wish to use some of the information in your existing advance care plan to complete this one.
The information you write in your Covid-19 Advance Care Plan can be used when talking with the medical team supporting you and can provide information the team might otherwise not be aware of - for example how to take your blood pressure, or take blood from you, as well as information about your mobility and quality of life and how to position you comfortably if you were on a ventilator. Some beneficiaries are also using it to make clear their wishes about resuscitation.
If you were not able to say what you wanted, the information in your Covid-19 Advance Care Plan could be useful in helping clinicians to consider your views when making clinical decisions about your ongoing care. It will also list your emergency contacts and the details of the people you want medical staff to talk to – you could add the Trust details here too.
There is a template document available that you can fill in and then keep with you (and give a copy to your GP).
This document is specifically for a situation where you became ill with the Covid-19 virus. However, a number of beneficiaries have also created Hospital Passports which contain a lot more detailed information to support any hospital admission you may require. There are a number of templates available for this, here's one example:
If you need any help or support with completing these documents or just want to talk to someone about your fears and anxieties, email the Trust
If you are struggling with anxiety and low mood, look at our new information for Mental Health Week on the Trust website which has lots of information and resources for coping with anxiety – or just get in touch by phone or email, we would love to hear from you and are always ready to listen.
Here at the Trust we all remain healthy and are continuing to mostly work from home and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
There is always one person in the Trust office every day to answer your phone calls – either Charlotte or Danielle. On occasion we have more than one person working there, for example, when a big mail out needs to be done. When this is the case we make sure we follow the guidance for ensuring a Covid-19 secure office, this includes:
- Maintaining social distancing
- Washing hands regularly
- Regular cleaning of surfaces
- Having hand sanitiser available
We are continuing to make calls to as many of you as we can, to check you are okay and find out if we can provide any help or support at this challenging time. So far we have contacted more than 340 of you. You don’t have to wait for us to contact you though, drop us an email anytime and we will get back to you.
Our beneficiary volunteers continue to do an amazing job helping people find their local services – such as shopping delivery – and keeping in touch for a friendly chat. They have also been running online coffee breaks – seven have taken place so far with 35 beneficiaries attending, including several from overseas and a good balance of men and women.
A number are planned for the next few weeks, so if you would like to join in please email us
Coffee Break Dates:
Tuesday 19 May 2:30pm
Thursday 21 May 10:30am
Tuesday 26 May 2:30pm
Friday 29 May 10:30am
Monday 1 June 3:30pm
Personal Independence Payments (PIP)
As mentioned in earlier updates, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have made a number of temporary changes to the PIP process in response to the challenges of Covid-19. A summary of these changes is set out below and, as always, if you have any questions or concerns about any of your benefits, please contact the H&W team at the Trust as we continue to provide help with this:
- New PIP claims continue to be processed
- The deadline to return the PIP2 form has been extended to three months
- Change of circumstances continue to be processed. If your needs change, you should notify DWP immediately to ensure that you have the correct level of award
- All face-to-face assessments have been suspended. Where possible and in line with usual processes, a paper-based assessment will be undertaken and if needed, a telephone-based assessment will be conducted. We understand that telephone assessments have been taking place for the last few weeks and if you have had one please let us know as we would like to be able to provide feedback to the DWP
- It is now possible for you to receive and return the PIP2 form electronically after you have made the initial telephone call to the DWP. Supporting evidence can also be submitted electronically, at the same time as the PIP2. We can help you with this if you are unsure how to do it
- All PIP awards that are coming up for a review soon will be automatically extended. Payments will continue and the DWP will contact you about a review in due course
- For anyone who is currently claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and who has been invited to claim PIP, no action is needed now. DLA payments will continue and the DWP will be in touch in the future to discuss the claim to PIP
As time has gone on, it has become easier for most of you to arrange online shopping deliveries. We are in communication with all the major supermarkets to try to ensure that beneficiaries of the Trust are given priority access – with varying degrees of success – but if you are still experiencing difficulties please let us know.
If you have a waitrose.com account and a ‘My Waitrose’ card and have placed an online order in the last six months, Waitrose have agreed to classify you as a vulnerable shopper which will give you access to priority shopping slots. You just need to give us permission to share your email address (which must match the one on your waitrose.com account) and they will arrange this.
Once you have an online shopping account with Tesco (if you don’t already, you can still set one up), you can contact their Vulnerable Shopper Line on 0800 917 7359 in order to be added to their priority list for home delivery. Although they will ask you a few questions, it should be a simple and straightforward process.
Coping With Isolation
The number of visitors and users of the forum has grown significantly over the last few weeks and we know that many of you find it very useful to share knowledge, ideas and support. We would continue to encourage you to do this on the forum
If you have forgotten your website log in details just drop us an email and we will get you back up and running.
To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, Dr Susan Brennan has produced a blog with lots of ideas and resources to help you cope with anxiety during this difficult time and this is available on the Trust website.
Health Grant Payments
The deadline for your Health Grant Declaration and payment request form to be received by us to get your payment on time is 25th May.
Many of you have already returned them – thank you! If you haven’t yet returned them, please do so as soon as you can. You can scan and return them by email – or you can take a clear photograph and email this – or you can send it by post to the FREEPOST address on the form. If anyone is having any difficulty, you can phone Jeff or Keith on the Trust number 01480 474074.
Take care of yourself – and keep safe and well!
Director of Health & Wellbeing