Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for SDSS members and stakeholders.
This page will be updated frequently as the situation develops. Last updated: Wednesday 24 February 2021, 16.00
As members and key stakeholders will be aware Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing particular concern for those working in a social care context at the moment. There is lots of useful information available online, we have collated the most relevant articles below in handy FAQ format. As well as this we have included information about the measures SDSS will be taking to protect our team, so that our members know what to expect from us over the coming weeks.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on self-directed support
- Coronavirus in Scotland – Scottish Government
- Face mask exemption card launched
- Self-Isolation Information and Support
- Testing for Personal Assistants – workshops
- Scottish Government Vaccination Programme Update (Jan 2021)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding social care workers (PAs) support scheme
- £500 bonus for Personal Assistants – update
COVID-19 vaccination programme
The COVID-19 vaccination programme began on Monday 7 December in Scotland. The Scottish Government has confirmed the priority list for the vaccine which includes people with underlying health conditions which put them at risk from the virus and carers (including unpaid carers).
The interim guidance says the order of priority should be:
- Older adults in a care home and care home workers
- All those who are 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- All those who are 75 years of age and over
- All those who are 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, excluding pregnant women and those under 18 years of age
- All those who are 65 years of age and over
- Adults aged 18 to 65 years in an at-risk group
- All those aged 60 and over
- All those aged 55 and over
- All those aged 50 and over
The Scottish Government has confirmed that unpaid carers under the age of 65 will be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine alongside those with underlying health conditions which puts them at risk of the virus. Carers aged 65 and above will be able to access the vaccine earlier under the initial groupings. They will seek to write out to as many carers as possible to inform them of their eligibility for the vaccine but recognise this will not reach everyone who needs it so this will be supplemented by wider public messaging and other forms of communications. They are working with national and local carer organisations as well as condition-specific charities to ensure a coherent approach that reaches as many carers as possible and encourages them to come forward to receive the vaccination.
The Scottish Government’s five-tier system is now in place across the country. From Monday 2 November, a protection level (0-4) will be applied to each local authority area. Each tier (level) helps us to understand and prepare for protections in our area, as well as showing how and when they may be lifted.
Levels will be reviewed on a regular basis.
Find out what level your local authority area is in, and what each level means here.
Information for visiting relatives in care homes
- Two visitors will be able to visit once a week (or one person twice a week), wearing PPE including face coverings.
- Visitors will be strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 test before visiting.
- Visiting may be restricted in certain circumstances, for instance if there is a COVID outbreak in a care home.
(1) I’m a disabled person or an unpaid carer, and want to share my experience. How can I do this?
Inclusion Scotland are carried out a survey for disabled people and those who care for disabled people. As They want policy and decision-makers to know what is really happening to disabled people on the ground, and what changes are needed. Initial findings have now been published and can be found here.
GDA have also conducted some research into the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people, read the interim report here.
Additionally, Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee launched a COVID-19 Inquiry which seeks to identify the evidence that some groups of people are experiencing disproportionately negative impacts of the coronavirus, and by some of the measures taken to deal with it.
This Inquiry is open for responses until January 2021, SDSS will respond to this Inquiry in due course, and share our response with members. We encourage members who have evidence of the negative impact on disabled people to consider responding too. Read more information about the scope of the Inquiry here.
Recently, The Coalition of Carers in Scotland opened a survey for unpaid carers to find out if, and how, you have been able to use your budget flexibly throughout this period. Click here to participate.
Information for Personal Assistant employers
(2) Where can PA employers go for information and advice?
ACAS have frequently updated guidance available for employers and employees, which you can find here.
The Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network (SPAEN) have recently recorded a podcast (ALLIANCE Live) which goes over key information relevant to PA employers. The full recording, including a transcript, can be found here.
In Control have all produced an informative video for those receiving a Direct Payment to employ staff, click here to view.
Skills for Care have also produced an FAQ document for PA employers, this is England specific but does include lots of useful information that is still applicable, you can find the document online here.
PA employers should also contact their employment law provider if they have any queries.
(3) Can the Furlough scheme be used by Personal Assistant employers?
The below information was taken from the recently published Scottish Government guidance on SDS Option 1 and 2 which can be accessed in full here:
”The UK Government is responsible for the development and administration of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (colloquially referred to as furlough).
Information specific to PA’s and furlough can be found in the section What is the government’s expectation on furloughing of PA’s? here, although many of the other aspects covered will not necessarily apply in Scotland.
More recently, the UK Government published Adult Social Care: how we expect the sector to interpret guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (27th April) which offers a little more detail.’
(4) Are Personal Assistants key workers? How can they identify themselves?
A recent letter from The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, acknowledges that Personal Assistants are key workers, and also recognises that PAs will not have formal ID in order to make this known where required.
The letter highlights that you should contact your local Independent Support Organisation (Click ‘Find Help’ on the top right of this page to search) in order to obtain a letter for Personal Assistants.
A number of our members have already produced template letters:
SPAEN have also offered to provide draft letters where required. We encourage members to make letters of this type available to their service users.
Alternatively, if you are a PA employer you may wish to identify your PA(s) yourself. One of our connections who uses SDS created a letter to this effect, and we have provided a template based in this here.
(5) My PA is unwell and I need cover. What can I do?
We are aware that colleagues at SPAEN and the PA Network are developing an emergency register of PAs, click here for the latest updates. You social worker should also be able to help with this.
Information for those working in a social care
(6) What measures should I be taking at work?
Health Protection Scotland have produced a guide specifically for those working in a care setting, click here (Please note that this guidance was recently updated, April 2nd).
Further clinical guidance for care at home, which specifically covers advice for Personal Assistants here.
(7) Where can social care staff access suitable PPE?
NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) has set up a helpline to deal with social care supplies during COVID-19. At the moment, the helpline is to be used only in cases where there is an urgent supply shortage and a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. This will be reviewed regularly in the coming days and weeks. Care service providers can reach the NHS NSS triage centre by calling 0300 303 3020.
(8) How can Personal Assistants and unpaid carers access PPE?
On April 23rd it was announced the Personal Assistants and unpaid/family carers will now be able to access PPE through the National Hub model.
PAs/PA employers If the routes you normally use to access PPE are unavailable, contact the Social Care PPE Support Centre on 0300 303 3020 and they can provide you with information about where to access PPE locally. This will usually be through a Hub that has been set up in your area.
The team will take you through a series of questions to understand your needs. When you go to collect the PPE from the Hub, or have it delivered to you, you will need to have a document which says you are a personal assistant.
You can access these documents through your local SDSS member (click ‘Find Help’ at the top right of our site), through SPAEN or directly from your employer if you are a PA. See FAQ (4) above for more information and templates.
Click here for full information on these arrangements from Scottish Government, as well as additional advice concerning PPE.
Unpaid/family carers who think they require PPE due to their caring role should contact their local carers centre who will advise on how to access supplies locally, where the routes they normally use to access it are unavailable. A list of local carers centres and young carer services can be found here
(9) What are Scottish Government doing to support the social care sector?
A letter was distributed on March 30th which outlines Scottish Government’s approach to supporting the social care sector during this period, Click here to view.
Additionally Scottish Government have launched a new wellbeing hub for social care staff and managers (including PA employers) which you can find here.
(10) What about the pay rise announcement?
In recognition of the vital role social care staff play in Scotland’s COVID-19 response, it was announced that staff, with immediate affect, will receive a pay-rise to meet the Real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour (inc PAs). Read more here.
(11) Have there been any changes to social care legislation?
On Sunday 5th April emergency regulations commenced that will allow easement for social care assessment requirements for local authorities. These would only be used in response to short-term and urgent local need, and only for as long as absolutely necessary. Local authorities will still be required to do as much as possible in providing support with appropriate safeguards in place.The relevant statutory guidance can be found here.
The key message of this guidance is as follows:
- Local Authorities are still required to do as much as possible to meet people’s needs.
- The regulations will only be used on a short-term basis to meet urgent need.
- They are designed to allow local authorities to focus urgently on protecting people if this becomes necessary.
In response to this, The Health and Social Care Alliance (the ALLIANCE) have published a briefing including recommendations around Social care assessment COVID-19 human rights concerns, read more here.
Additionally, Scottish Government have published guidance on SDS Option 1 and 2 for LA/HSCP staff which can be found here.
Information for the third sector
(12) Where can third sector organisations go for information?
(13) We are experiencing financial difficulty, is there any support?
For organisations facing financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 crisis The Third Sector Resilience Fund is now open for applications, further information can be found here.
(14) What about existing funding?
We are aware that some organisations may be concerned about their ability to deliver on key targets and commitments to funders during this time. These are very unusual circumstances which we would expect most funders to be understanding of, so we would encourage members to communicate directly with funders about this. SCVO have now published a list of responses from key funders which you can find here.
(15) We are interested in making use of video conferencing tools during this time, do you have any recommendations?
The SDSS team use Microsoft Teams to conduct staff meetings, if any members would like support to use this tool, do not hesitate to get in touch.
As always our key priority is ensuring the welfare of our team. From the 17th of March the SDSS team have be working from home. Fortunately we are all accustomed to working from home, so our service is not impacted too much. However, all arranged face to face meetings and appointments will be cancelled.
Our phone lines have been diverted to staff mobiles, and we are able to access voicemail from home. Email communication will continue as normal, and we will be accessing voicemail on a daily basis. Please bear with us if responses are slower than normal, as we are expecting an increase in enquiries during this time.
We have noted that a number of members are taking similar precautions, contact them directly for more information.
I have a query that is not covered above:
Update us with COVID-19 issues relevant to social care support/SDS, you do not need to leave contact details but if you do we will endeavour to get back to you with any useful information- see our privacy notice
We will be passing key concerns/themes on to Scottish Government.