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.


Families Letter, 21/12/20

Dear family member,

In my last letter to you dated 9th December I was happy to be able to set out how we planned to facilitate visits over the Christmas period. By making use of rapid ‘lateral flow’ coronavirus tests, we hoped that as many people we support as possible would either be able to visit family members or have family members visit them over the five day window during which restrictions were to be eased.

However, it is with a very heavy heart that I must let you know that our guidance on visits over Christmas has had to change due to the surge in coronavirus cases and the new rules issued by the government in both England and Wales.

All of London and most of the south-east of England has now been placed in ‘Tier 4’ which means that all mixing of households over Christmas has been banned. Other than in exceptional cases, I’m afraid this will mean that no visits will be possible at all in ‘Tier 4’ areas – unless a single family member is able to arrange an outside meeting in a public space.

In the rest of England, three households can still mix indoors but only on Christmas Day and no overnight stays are allowed. The situation in Wales is similar, although only two households are able to mix indoors plus one other single-person household.

It may, therefore, be possible to arrange for your loved one to visit you on Christmas Day other than for those who live in ‘Tier 4’. However, in most cases it won’t be possible for any family member to visit a loved one in one of our services, unless it is a single-person service and you have formed a support bubble with your loved one.

I know this will cause a lot of pain, sadness and frustration. It really isn’t where we should be now, nine months into this pandemic. But I do still firmly believe that things will get better in 2021. The roll-out of the vaccine is continuing at pace and we hope that as many people as possible will take up the vaccine. I would also like to reassure you that we will have adequate numbers of colleagues on duty to support your loved one over Christmas and make it special for them, and we will do all we can to facilitate virtual ways for you to keep in touch with them – such as by Zoom calls, etc.

If you have any questions about Christmas, or have any other questions about how we are supporting your loved one, please liaise with your Locality Manager or contact our helpline for families (open from 9.30am to 1.30pm, Monday to Friday) on 0300 303 9161 or email the team at The helpline will close from 1.30pm on Wednesday 23rd December and re-open on Tuesday 5th January.

Despite it all, I would like to wish you a peaceful Christmas.

Best wishes,


Steve Scown

Chief Executive


If you have concerns please speak to your locality manager for updates. You may find the following links helpful:

Families page

Advice, resources and activities

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.

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