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Supporting unpaid carers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Protecting yourself and the person you care for

The coronavirus pandemic presents additional challenges for people who look after a friend or family member who due to age, lifelong conditions, illness, disability, injury, mental health conditions of addictions, cannot cope without their support. The outbreak and measures that have been put in place have an impact on everyone and may result in increased stress and anxiety for both unpaid carers and the people they care for.

If you are providing personal care for a friend or family member you are now eligible for free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) until March 2022.  If you are caring for somebody (particularly if they are not in your household), you might want to consider using PPE to protect yourself and the person you are caring for.

To order your PPE please visit Careplace to complete the online application form.

Caring for someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable

If you are caring for someone who falls into the clinically extremely vulnerable category for risk of severe illness from COVID-19, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk.

Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene:

  • Only care that is essential should be provided
  • Wash your hands when you arrive at the home of the person you care for and often thereafter, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • Do not visit if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • Provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
  • Find out about different sources of support that could be used and access further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you should make alternative arrangements for the person you care using your emergency plan. You should avoid contact with that person as much as possible.

View how to get help in an emergency.

Symptoms of coronavirus

Visit NHS to find out about the main symptoms of coronavirus.

What to do if you or the person you care for has COVID-19 symptoms

If you or someone in your household has symptoms you should follow the Stay at home guidance which states that if you live alone and you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started, if you live alone. If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

You should make alternative arrangements for the person you care using your emergency plan. If the person is in the 'extremely vulnerable group' you should avoid contact with that person as much as possible. You can contact the Community Hub Helpline on 020 8871 6555 or email for further support.

You should follow the advice on the use of PPE below.


When cleaning use the usual household products, such as detergents and bleach because these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus on surfaces. Frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, fridges, kettles should be cleaned regularly. It may be helpful to clean the property more frequently and also to ensure that it is well ventilated.

If doing laundry, do not shake dirty laundry before washing, to minimise dispersing the virus through the air. Wash items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. All dirty laundry can be washed in the same load.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

You should wear PPE such as aprons or gloves as you normally would depending on the type of care you provide. Additional PPE is only required if you or the person you care for is in the shielding category or has symptoms of COVID-19.

Carers who are living in the same household as the person they are caring for, do not require PPE.


Although the advice to shield has ended, clinically extremely vulnerable people must continue to follow the rules that are in place for everyone.

You are advised to follow the practical steps to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus. Please follow the guidance set out in the shielding section.

There is specific guidance on what will happen if there is a local outbreak.

Guidance on meeting family and friends has been updated, with a greater emphasis on personal responsibility. From 17 May, close contact with friends and family will be a personal choice, but you are encouraged to exercise caution. You should consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help yourself and others keep safe. There is more information on meeting friends and family available.

When the carer has COVID-19 symptoms

If you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 but the person you care for has no symptoms, you should not be providing direct care and seek to make alternative arrangements for care of your friend/family member.

You should try to stay 2 metres from them as much as possible and follow guidance for households with possible COVID-19 on NHS inform.

If the person you care for also has symptoms of COVID-19, you can continue to provide care, provided you feel well enough to do so or where you are unable to make alternative care arrangements you must:

  • Wear PPE such as aprons or gloves as you normally would depending on the type of care you provide
  • Also wear a face mask for the period of time you are providing care for your friend or family member. This should be replaced if it becomes damaged, soiled or uncomfortable
  • After you have provided care directly to the individual, you should remove the face mask (and any other PPE) and maintain a distance of 2 metres or more
  • When removed, PPE must be placed in a disposable bag and then a secondary disposable bag. It should be tied and held for 72 hours before being placed in the household waste bin for collection.

We recommend that you purchase your own PPE. If you have difficulties, please contact the Richmond Community Hub.

When the person you care for has COVID-19 symptoms

If the person you are caring for has COVID-19 symptoms you must also follow the above guidance on wearing and disposing of PPE.

Planning in case of an emergency

It’s a good idea to create an emergency plan for use in circumstances where help from other people to deliver care may be needed. Depending on the circumstances, this could be help from family or friends, or a care provider. This should be in an accessible format and include the following information on the person you care for:

  • Name and address, phone number and email address
  • Emergency contact person’s name, address, phone and email
  • Current medication
  • Any ongoing treatment
  • Any significant medical appointments

In an emergency you can contact Richmond Carers’ Centre for help and advice.

Pharmacy prescriptions

If you normally collect prescriptions for the person you care for, you will not be able to do this if you are self-isolating. Most pharmacies provide a home delivery service. Telephone them to see if this is available or if there is another scheme running locally to help you access prescriptions. Pharmacy delivery services will be under pressure at the moment, so it is important that you order your repeat prescriptions in good time, to avoid delays in dispensing. Information on repeat prescriptions and delivery services may also be available via your GP.

Carer's mental health and wellbeing 

It is important that you look after your own health and wellbeing as well as supporting others you care for, especially given the potential for additional stresses at the current time and the potential for reduced access to support such as respite care. The government has developed detailed guidance on self-care and sources of support for mental health and wellbeing.

Useful links and further information

 Accessible and easy read resources

Updated: 25 October 2021