Guidance and information for Covid-19

Guidance and information for Retirement Community Operators on the new tier system of Covid-19 restrictions

Following the commencement of a new national lockdown to reduce the spread of Covid-19, we have summarised the key restrictions in place, and what this means for housing-with-care settings, including for visits. This lockdown takes place alongside the more positive news of an accelerating vaccine rollout in the UK, and below you’ll also find information about what this is likely to mean for housing-with-care.

 

The new national lockdown  

On Monday 4th January the Prime Minister announced that a new national lockdown would be introduced for a minimum of seven weeks, to help curb the spread of Covid-19 and the particularly transmissible variant of it that has developed in the UK. Similar to the first national lockdown which began in March 2020, everybody should stay at home except for a very specific set of reasons:

  • to shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • to go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • to exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area
  • to meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • to seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • to attend education or childcare - for those eligible

Full information on what you can and can’t do during the lockdown can be found here.

 

Of particular relevance to housing-with-care settings

The permitted reasons for leaving home include viewing residential properties, visiting property sales offices/show homes, and moving home. Restaurants and cafes can open for takeaway and delivery only; extra care housing schemes are allowed to provide an eat-in service for a resident where this is reasonably necessary to safeguard their physical or mental health. Close contact (hair and beauty) services should be closed. Indoor and outdoor pools, gyms and leisure facilities should be closed except that gyms and sports facilities may be used by people with a disability.

 

Shielding for the most vulnerable

As with the first lockdown from March 2020, those people identified as extremely clinically vulnerable are again being advised to shield, with the Government's guidance stating that "If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. There is additional advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential."

Members should take note of the new shielding policy so they can provide particular support to any residents who fall within this group, and ensure they are able stay healthy and well during their time shielding.

 

Visits to care settings during lockdown  

The Government has updated its guidance on visits to care settings in light of the new national lockdown. Regarding visits to care homes, the Government has clarified that:

“Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak. You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during Covid-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home). There is separate guidance for those in supported living." 

Members may wish to consult the new guidance for care homes and supported living settings regarding visits, and take a similar approach to the one put forward by the Government, which stresses that visits should only take place where substantial protective equipment such as screen and pods are available.

 

Covid-19 vaccinations for housing-with-care settings

The Government has stated its aim that all those in the top four priority groups for Covid-19 vaccination will receive the first dose of vaccine by the middle of February. This includes everyone aged 70 and over, and all frontline health and social care workers - including those working in housing-with-care. New guidance states that frontline housing support staff should be included in the vaccine rollout, not only care staff: 

"New operational guidance on testing and vaccination programmes to be set up by mid-January now includes frontline social care workers (cohort 2b) directly working with vulnerable people who need care and support in any setting, including supported housing. This also encompasses those supported housing providers who don’t deliver a registered care service. NHS Trusts are being asked to work with local authorities to deliver tests and vaccines to frontline social care workers, which includes housing support officers. A government publication is due to follow that will make this clear. We recommend that supported housing providers contact their local authorities to make sure they are aware of this directive and are included in the rollout." 

As the guidance states, a more detailed Government publication will soon follow on this - which we will update you with as soon as possible. But the guidance indicates that supported housing providers should contact their local authorities right away to ensure they are included. We are in close communication with DHSC about the vaccine rollout in relation to the housing-with-care sector, and the possibility of whole-scheme vaccination. We will provide further updates on this shortly. 

 

Find out more from ARCO

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK, ARCO has shared and provided advice on Covid-19 guidance through a variety of mediums, including daily update emails, regular online discussion and bulletins.

  • If you would like to receive the twice weekly Covid-19 update email that ARCO sends out, including all the latest information and guidance relevant for the housing-with-care sector, then please email Sam Dalton, Policy and External Affairs Manager, via samdalton@arcouk.org.
  • If you work for an ARCO member and would like to join our fortnightly calls to discuss the latest Covid-19 guidance and have your questions answered, then please email Sally Ireland, Barrister and Head of Regulation and Compliance, via sallyireland@arcouk.org.