Information for families
Information for families of people we support can be found here
More general information is listed below.
Mandatory vaccinations – no immediate changes 17/06/2021
The government has confirmed that it will introduce legislation to make vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for all staff in CQC-registered care homes in England (with some limited exemptions). It will also make vaccination mandatory for all visitors to CQC-registered care homes, and will consult on extending this requirement to staff in domiciliary services and the NHS. There are currently no plans to makes these changes in Wales, but that may change. We have yet to see the text of any new law, and this would have to be passed by parliament before taking effect. We will share more details as soon as we have them.
Government delays exit from pandemic restrictions 15/06/2021
As you may have seen in the news, the government has delayed the final removal of restrictions on social gatherings in England, originally planned for 21st June, until 19th July. In Wales, which moved from alert level 2 to alert level 1 on 7th June, there has been no decision yet as to when all restrictions will be removed.
We have said all along that the dates in our own roadmap out of the pandemic would change if the government’s dates changed. Therefore, our Pandemic Emergency Response Team will consider the implications of the decision at its meeting on Thursday.
Out of lockdown and into life 11/06/2021
As lockdown restrictions ease, many colleagues and people we support may experience some anxiety. Our Involvement and Engagement team has produced a great animation particularly for the people we support on how to deal with coming out of lockdown and returning to the things they enjoyed before the pandemic struck. You can view this video on our Youtube Channel here, and we encourage you to share this with the people you support.
Experts answer questions on the vaccine 04/06/2021
The government minister responsible for the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, Nadhim Zahawi, and two of the country’s leading clinical experts, Professor Jonathan Van Tam and Dr Nikita Kanani, have participated in an interactive webinar giving social care workers the chance to ask questions about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. The webinar was recorded and you can watch it here on YouTube. It takes about 48 minutes and is helpful in dispelling some myths about the vaccine.
Local guidelines to be followed 28/05/2021
The government is advising against indoor meetings in areas where the so-called Indian coronavirus variant is spreading fastest, as well as all but essential travel in and out of these areas. Eight areas are currently on the list: Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. Some confusion has arisen because the advice is only guidance and not a legal requirement, but we have followed government guidance throughout this pandemic and so we urge anyone living or working in these areas to follow it in this case. This will mean stopping indoor visits in the affected areas and being extra careful when out and about, but colleagues can still travel into or out of these areas to get to work.
Making coronavirus tests more accessible 28/05/2021
We have been working with the Test and Trace team at the Department of Health and Social Care to explore how they can make the process of accessing home PCR coronavirus test kits before planned admission to hospital easier for the people we support. They are asking for feedback from anyone who has had to take a home PCR test before going in to hospital for elective care, so if someone you support has experience of this, please get in touch with Public Affairs Manager Andie Gbedemah (email@example.com).
New guidance on visits 21/05/2021
In the light of the easing of pandemic restrictions earlier this week, we have updated our guidance documents on visits to Registered Care Homes and supported living services, and visits out from supported living services, in England. You can download these documents from the list below. Similar guidance will be applicable to Wales and further details on this will follow.
- Guidance on visits to Registered Care Homes in England from 17th May 2021
- Guidance on visits to supported living settings in England from 17th May 2021
- Guidance on visits from supported living settings in England from 17th May 2021
Our existing guidance on visits from Registered Care Homes continues to apply.
Guidance on support bubbles 21/05/2021
The government has updated its guidance on support bubbles in England following the further easing of restrictions last Monday – you can download it here. The guidance covers questions such as who is eligible to form a support bubble and how you can change your support bubble. It also makes it clear that people can continue to meet in groups larger than six people or two households indoors where this is reasonably necessary for providing care or to attend a support group of up to 30 people.
NHS app 21/05/2021
As you may have seen in the news, the NHS app, which can be downloaded to both Android and Apple smartphones, can now be used as a ‘vaccine passport’ to prove that you have been vaccinated against Covid-19. This app is not the same as the government’s Covid-19 app which is used for contact tracing and to check into venues.
The ability to prove our vaccine status will probably become increasingly useful for a variety of purposes. However, the NHS app does work with confidential health data and so, while we encourage you to consider downloading it on your personal mobile device, please do not download it on to a Dimensions device. More information on the app, and options to download it, are available here.
Indian variant concerns 21/05/2021
You may have seen news about a new coronavirus variant originating in India which is now spreading in the UK. Current evidence suggests that this variant may be more contagious than other variants, but also that the vaccines are still effective in protecting against it. For this reason we don’t believe there is any cause for alarm, but the emergence of the new variant does add yet further weight to the case for getting vaccinated and for continuing to follow our rules on PPE and our other infection control measures.
On to the next stage of the roadmap 14/05/2021
Our Pandemic Emergency Response Team has confirmed that we will move ahead into the next stage of our roadmap out of the pandemic for England on Monday. This means that people we support in Registered Care Homes will be able to have up to five designated regular visitors indoors (not including children), although only two will be able to visit on any one day. Visitors will still need to be tested for coronavirus beforehand and risk assessments will need to be in place. For other people we support, the national rules apply – which means they will be able to have up to five visitors indoors (the Rule of Six includes the person being visited), or more if the visitors are only from two other households. Communal areas in shared supported living settings will also re-open. We will share more comprehensive guidance on visits shortly.
More generally, in England, indoor hospitality venues will re-open and the Rule of Six, or two households, will apply inside – with people allowed to hug. Groups of up to 30 people will be allowed outside, overnight stays in people’s homes or hotels will be permitted, indoor sports and entertainment venues will open and foreign travel to a very limited number of countries will be allowed.
The rules are changing in Wales at the same time and in a very similar way to England. Full details on the easing of restrictions in Wales can be viewed here.
New letter to families 30/04/2021
We have a new open letter to the family members of people we support from Steve Scown. The letter includes summaries in bullet points of both the letter and current visiting rules. Please download the appropriate letter from the options below and make sure that all family members of the people your teams support receive it as soon as possible in the most effective way.
- Letter to families of people supported by Dimensions in England
- Letter to families of people supported by Discovery in Somerset
For people we support recovering from Covid-19 30/04/2021
We would like to share two videos produced by the NHS for people with learning disabilities who are recovering from Covid-19 or suffering from ‘long Covid’:
Updated guidance on visits from Registered Care Homes 26/04/2021
Following the easing of restrictions in England and new guidance issued by the government, we have produced this new guidance on when and how to facilitate visits of people we support from a Registered Care Home to their family’s home. The guidance makes it clear that outdoor visits are still preferable, but that there are cases in which an indoor visit to a family home can be supported following a risk assessment and with infection control measures in place. This could be for a few hours or overnight, if supported by the risk assessment.
This guidance does not cover short trips outside, such as to the shops, and it only applies to Registered Care Homes. For people in supported living settings, the rules on visits to other people’s homes are the same as for the general population.
This guidance replaces the guidance previously shared below.
New guidance on visits to services 16/04/2021
Following the latest easing of restrictions in England on Monday, we have issued this new guidance on visits by family members and friends to people we support, which starts with a summary of the key points. People who live in Registered Care Homes are now allowed up to two designated regular visitors indoors, and we are also allowing two designated visitors indoors for the people we support in shared supported living if they cannot meet outdoors and if not having visitors indoors would cause them distress. These visits must be risk assessed and will require all visitors taking a rapid coronavirus test and receiving a negative result before the visit takes place. We are continuing to encourage outdoor visits, including to back gardens, wherever possible.
Vaccinations and tests during Ramadan 16/04/2021
The holy month of Ramadan began on Monday evening. During this month Muslims fast during daylight hours, which includes abstaining from eating and drinking. Some Muslims also refrain from smoking, taking medicine and chewing gum during the fast because they understand fasting to mean that nothing may enter the body, and some observers have taken this to include receiving vaccines or taking a coronavirus test.
The British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) has issued statements reassuring Muslims that taking Covid-19 tests or receiving a vaccination during the fast is permitted. Their view is that neither involves nutrition entering the blood and that, therefore, neither can be construed as breaking the fast. This is also the learned opinion of many Islamic scholars. More information is available here on the BIMA website, and we would also like to share this presentation from Wokingham Council which deals with a number of related issues from the perspective of the Muslim community.
Vaccination booking service halted 09/04/2021
The English National Booking Service for the Covid-19 vaccinations was suspended at the start of this month for all non-NHS health and care professionals. Support workers and family carers who have not booked their first vaccination yet can no longer use it, so if this applies to you and you wish to get vaccinated, you should contact your GP. GPs have been advised that they should support care workers who come forward for vaccines.
A number of sector bodies, including VODG which Dimensions is a member of, have signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State urging the government to reintroduce access to the National Booking Service for all social care workers.
Rules in Wales 09/04/2021
Our roadmap out of the pandemic only applies to England because the rules and timeline are slightly different in Wales. There is currently no confirmed date for when it is hoped all restrictions will be removed in Wales, and every stage of the process is contingent on a review process. There will be an easing of restrictions on Monday, and the current situation and plans for the next stage of the roadmap are detailed here on the Welsh government’s website. The Welsh government has also produced this guidance for supported living (you may need to copy and paste the link into your browser). We are encouraging risk-assessed garden visits to our services in Wales, and for the people we support in self-contained accommodation, we are continuing to facilitate support bubbles.
Clarification on visiting rules 02/04/2021
Now that limited outdoor gatherings are allowed in England, we would like to clarify certain points about the current rules governing visits to people we support. The rules are different in Wales and we will provide clarification on these shortly.
Currently all the people we support can receive visitors outside, including in a private garden, and there is no need to designate anyone as a regular visitor for outdoors visits. The only rules that apply are that gatherings are limited to six people (or two households of any size) and that people of different households should maintain social distancing. Colleagues who are providing support to someone during an outdoor visit do not count towards the maximum number of people who can gather. For outdoor visits, including in gardens, no coronavirus test is needed and PPE only needs to be worn if social distancing won’t be possible.
People who live in a Registered Care Home can also receive a visit indoors by a single designated regular visitor, as long as the visitor returns a negative lateral flow coronavirus test before entering and wears full PPE. While this rule does not apply to supported living, it may still be possible to facilitate visits indoors to people in shared supported living services but, as before, this is determined by individual risk-based assessments and can only go ahead if it is deemed that not allowing such a visit would be distressing for the person we support.
The new rules have no effect on support bubbles. This means that a person we support who lives alone is eligible to form a support bubble with one other household, or maintain a support bubble where it has already been in place.
Understanding the current rules 02/04/2021
In England the government’s roadmap out of the pandemic is now being implemented, but it can be difficult to remember exactly which rules now apply. To help, the government has produced this poster which clearly explains the rules that apply to the current period following the easing of some restrictions on 29th March.
Free rapid coronavirus tests available 19/03/2021
Anyone who shares a household, childcare bubble or support bubble with at least one child in nursery or school, or a student at college, or with anyone who works in a school, nursery or college can now order free rapid lateral flow coronavirus test kits here on the government’s website. A test kit contains seven tests and you can order one test kit per household each day.
Useful factsheets from Access Social Care 19/03/2021
The charity Access Social Care has produced a range of helpful factsheets for social care workers during the pandemic. They cover topics ranging from understanding the current restrictions to mental capacity and welfare benefits. You can find them here.
Zoom calls for families 19/03/2021
Our team of Family Consultants and Associate Family Consultants have set up two monthly drop-in sessions for families. They are on the second Thursday of every month from 10am to 11am and from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. The next sessions are on 8th April and 13th May and are for general questions, mutual support and chat. Joining details are available from the helpline for families (open from 9.30am to 1.30pm, Monday to Friday) on 0300 303 9161 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team is also keen to set up a group for siblings and cousins of people we support, so please let the helpline for families team know if you would like to join.
New letter to family members 12/03/2021
We have a new open letter to the family members of people we support in England from Steve Scown explaining the new rules on visits. The full and updated guidance on visits is also attached to the letter.
Updated guidance on visits 12/03/2021
The government has announced that, from 8th March 2021, people who live in Registered Care Homes in England will be allowed one regular visitor indoors. The visitor will be allowed to hold hands with the person they are visiting, but they will be required to wear PPE and to take a coronavirus test before entry.
To reflect these changes we have updated our guidance on visits to our Registered Care Homes and shared supported living services in England. Very briefly, the guidance states that People we support in Registered Care Homes can receive regular visits indoors. People in shared supported living can only meet a family member or friend outside in a public open space for now, although we are expecting new guidance for supported living shortly. This guidance on visits currently only applies to Registered Care Homes.
People we support and Learning Disability Registers 12/03/2021
We believe that the vast majority of the people we support are on their GP’s Learning Disability Register, and so are being prioritised for vaccination. However, there may be some who aren’t and so Access Social Care has produced this guide to Learning Disability Registers and this letter template for family members to request that their loved one is included in the register.
Our roadmap out of the pandemic 09/03/2021
We are very pleased to share with you today our roadmap out of the pandemic for the Dimensions group. The roadmap uses the same dates as the government’s roadmap for England, and if the government’s dates change due to unforeseen circumstances, ours will too. For each of the dates, our Pandemic Emergency Response Team will confirm if the change will go ahead on the preceding Thursday and we will then communicate the decision in the bulletin sent out on Friday morning. The change will then be effective from the Monday.
Having a Coronavirus vaccine animation 04/03/2021
Our Involvement & Engagement team have produced this accessible animation about the Covid-19 vaccine. Watch it below, or on YouTube here.
More people with learning disabilities prioritised for vaccine 26/02/2021
It was announced yesterday that all people on their GP’s Learning Disability Register will now be prioritised for a Covid-19 vaccine. Previously only those identified as having a ‘severe and profound learning disability’ were prioritised, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has now broadened the criteria. This is a great success for all those within our sector who have been lobbying for this change at the highest levels of government, including Dimensions.
We think that most of the people we support will be on their GP’s Learning Disability Register, and so should receive an invitation to get vaccinated shortly. However, some people with a mild disability may not be and for them it would still be worth approaching their GP to enquire about being vaccinated.
Roadmap out of lockdown 23/02/2021
As you may have seen in the news, the Prime Minister announced a four-stage roadmap out of lockdown, with each stage dependent on certain conditions being met. All changes will take place across England, so there will be no return to the local tier system, and the hope is that all legal limits on social contact can be lifted by 21st June. You can read full details here on the BBC website.
New rules on visits 23/02/2021
The government has announced that, from 8th March, people who live in Registered Care Homes in England will be allowed one regular visitor indoors. The visitor will be allowed to hold hands with the person they are visiting, but they will be required to wear PPE and to take a coronavirus test before entry.
We will be preparing our own guidance on visits as soon as the government’s guidance is published. However, we have made the decision that these new rules will be applied across both our Registered Care Homes and our supported living services.
Court of Protection’s view on vaccination 05/02/21
The Court of Protection this week ruled that an 80-year-old woman lacking capacity should be given the Covid-19 vaccine against the wishes of her son. Although all court decisions are based on individual situations, the judgement indicates how thinking is developing when it comes to best interest decisions. If you’d like to read further, you can find the full judgement here.
Rapid tests for colleagues and contractors visiting services 05/02/21
Following best practice, we are asking all colleagues who visit services but who are not part of that service’s regular testing regime to take a rapid lateral flow coronavirus test on arrival and wait until a negative result is returned before entering. We are also requiring all external contractors visiting services to take a rapid lateral flow test and return a negative result before coming in, unless they are already part of a regular testing regime organised by their employer (which many contractors now are).
We have purchased thousands of lateral flow test kits for these purposes, and will be making further purchases shortly. This new policy does not affect the regular testing already being provided to Registered Care Homes and supported living services by local authorities.
Conditions that mean people are prioritised for vaccines 05/02/21
The government has pledged to offer a Covid-19 vaccination to everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February. The fourth of these groups includes anyone who is aged over 16 and is classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. Please be aware that the list of conditions which mean that someone is officially regarded as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ includes Down’s syndrome, a ‘severe and profound learning disability’, diabetes, morbid obesity, ‘severe mental illness’ and epilepsy. Anyone who has any of these conditions should be prioritised for a vaccination. The full list of conditions can be found in this document.
Vaccine misinformation 29/1/21
It has been reported that misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines is being directed particularly at people in the black and minority ethnic community.
To counter misinformation, we would like to share this video in which a doctor from an Asian and Muslim background encourages people to get vaccinated, and this video which features black MPs from different parties encouraging the same. Please share these videos with those you know.
Families blog 22/1/21
Family consultant Liz blogs about her experience of vaccination for members of her family – and herself
Priority vaccination 21/1/21
We have updated our easy read guide to the coronavirus vaccine for the people we support and you can download it here. The guide explains what the vaccine is and what the process for receiving it will be, and it also covers the issue of consent.
We have been pushing for increased priority for all people who have a learning disability through a number of channels in recent weeks, including:
- Submitting oral evidence in front of the Health and Social Care Select Committee in Parliament on 2 December 2020, where we raised a number of issues impacting on people we support during the pandemic, including the need for priority vaccination. The Chair of this committee has gone on to ask questions in parliament of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and we remain in contact with the committee to advance higher prioritisation of people who have a learning disability.
- We have published a letter template and guide to help people write directly to their MP about prioritising vaccines. We continue to share this across the organisation and through our online networks.
- We have shared and supported a public petition on prioritising people who have a learning disability
- We have written to Nadhim Zahawi – the minister chairing the Vaccination Task Force, to underline the need for priority vaccinations, given the shocking mortality figures for people who have a learning disability. We are yet to receive a response to this communication, which was sent in mid-December.
- Our colleagues continue to raise the issue of priority vaccinations in a number of forums, including cross-party parliamentary groups and with NHS England and Improvement. We are also in contact with the Adult Social Care Vaccination Team to make them aware of ‘on the ground’ issues with vaccine roll-out as they arise.
- At a more local and regional level, we are supporting local authorities in their preparations to roll-out the vaccine as per the COVID Vaccine Delivery Plan. Whilst these bodies are bound by the national prioritisation guidance, we are taking opportunities to enable people we support to get vaccinated as they arise. This includes the development of an internal strategy and accessible information for people we support to prepare people for vaccination.
- We are aware that some colleagues are being notified of vaccine appointments at short notice, including when they are due on shift. We are asking locality managers to prioritise people getting vaccinations and to do everything possible to facilitate this, including backfilling their shifts if necessary.
- In the longer term, CEO Steve Scown says people with learning disabilities must vote in general elections to avoid being overlooked across multiple policy areas.
We will continue to make the case for a fast roll out of the vaccine to people we support and those that support them and hope that our voice and those of others will help to shift the government’s approach to prioritisation.
Face coverings in shops 21/1/21
As you may have seen in the news, the UK’s biggest supermarkets – Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose – have all now said that they will refuse admission to any customer who is not wearing a face covering.
Most people we support can wear a face covering and we encourage them to do so whenever this is the rule, including in any shop and on public transport.
However, the nature of some people’s learning disability or autism will mean that they cannot wear a face covering, and in these cases they are medically exempt.
Although the government’s position is that people should not need to evidence their disability exemption, some people we support may be challenged at supermarkets. We have written to all the major supermarket chains to highlight this issue as part of our #ICantWearAMask campaign.
In order to prevent embarrassment, people we support who cannot wear a face covering may like to carry a government exemption card which can be found here on the government website. To be clear, though, this isn’t mandatory.
Community coronavirus testing 21/1/21
Regular coronavirus testing is now being provided to support workers in Registered Care Homes and those in supported living settings. However, not all our frontline support colleagues are covered by this due to the criteria set out in the guidance for testing – for example, those who offer floating support or work in outreach centres.
We believe that all our frontline colleagues should be given regular coronavirus tests and are lobbying the government for this.
If you have concerns please speak to your locality manager for updates. You may find the following links helpful:
Everybody else, please speak to your usual contact at Dimensions.
If you cannot reach your usual contacts, please complete the contact form here.
This page will be regularly updated.