Information for families
Information for families of people we support can be found here
More general information is listed below.
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 email@example.com.
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.