The Government has set out a roadmap for the clinically extremely vulnerable on the future of the shielding programme.
For now, the guidance remains the same – stay at home and only go outside to exercise or to spend time outdoors with a member of your household, or with one other person from another household if you live alone – but the guidance will change on 6 July and again on 1 August , subject to clinical evidence.
Shielding and other advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable has been and remains advisory.
What are the changes?
The Government is planning to relax shielding guidance in stages.
From 6 July, you will be able to meet in groups of up to six people from outside your household, outdoors and with social distancing.
From 1 August, you will no longer need to shield, and the advice will be that you can visit shops and places of worship, but you should continue maintaining rigorous social distancing.
Food supplies: If you are getting Government-provided food boxes and medicine deliveries, you will continue to receive this support until the end of July. Local councils and volunteers are also providing support to people who are shielding, to enable them to stay safely in their homes. The government is funding local councils to continue to provide these services to those who need them until the end of July.
Healthcare: People in the clinically extremely vulnerable group should continue to access the NHS services they need, and if they need to go to hospital or to another health facility for planned care, extra planning and protection will be put in place.
Mental health support: It is normal during these uncertain and unusual times to feel anxious or low. Check the Every Mind Matters page on anxiety - https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/ – and look at the NHS mental wellbeing audio on how to manage anxiety https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/anxiety/. If you need to talk to someone about your mental health or you are looking for more support for someone else, speak to a GP and seek out mental health support delivered by charities or the NHS.
Income and employment support: At present, people who are shielding are advised not to go to work. This guidance remains advisory. Those shielding will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) on the basis of their shielding status until 31 July. SSP eligibility criteria apply.
From 1 August, if clinically extremely vulnerable people are unable to work from home but need to work, they can, as long as the business is COVID safe. The Government is asking employers to work with them to ease the transition back to a more normal way of life for their shielding employees. It is important that this group continues to take careful precautions, and employers should do all they can to enable them to work from home where possible, including moving them to another role if required. Where this is not possible, those who have been shielding should be provided with the safest onsite roles that enable them to maintain social distancing.
If employers cannot provide a safe working environment, they can continue to use the Job Retention Scheme for shielded employees who have already been furloughed.
What support will be available after July? From 1 August, clinically extremely vulnerable people will continue to have access to priority supermarket delivery slots if they have registered online before 17 July. NHS Volunteer Responders will also continue to offer support to those who need it, including collecting and delivering food and medicines.
The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme has been expanded to offer a new Check in and Chat Plus role. This has been designed to provide peer support and companionship to people who are shielding as they adapt to a more normal way of life.
If you are vulnerable or at risk and need help with shopping, medication or other essential supplies, please call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). Details of available support and advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-support
The updated shielding guidance should not affect any social care or support you were receiving before shielding started. Individuals should continue to contact Lincolnshire County Council if they have any ongoing social care needs.