Can I still provide care for a loved one during lockdown?
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 04 February 2021
With another national lockdown now in place for the foreseeable future, everyone has a lot on their plate. And this is especially true for carers. Care work, both paid and unpaid, goes on regardless of the pandemic – and carers who look after people they do not live with still need to go into other people’s homes. We are going to explore the situation from various perspectives, including what the legal situation is and what the guidance says, as well as sharing some practical tips on how to stay safe and upbeat during this difficult time.
What does the law say?
First of all, it’s important for a carer to be familiar with what the law says – especially given the recent announcement that the country is now back in lockdown for the third time. Fortunately, the law is clear and unequivocal on the topic of going into other people’s homes to provide care. According to the official UK government website, the key test about whether or not work outside the home is permitted lies in how possible it is to do your work without leaving.
“Anyone who can work from home,” the government says, “should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work.” The page then specifically recognises that “providers of in-home services” are unlikely to be able to work from their own home. And if your care work is unpaid, as may be the case if you care for a family member or friend, you are still permitted to do it. However, it is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you get contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service – so if you receive such a notification, you may need to put alternative care procedures into place. For more information, click here.
Advice from the government
However, the government then goes on to provide lots of helpful advice designed to help you analyse your situation, look out for what the Covid-related risks might be, and then put some actions in place to mitigate those risks as best you can. As a carer, it is likely that your work involves getting physically close to the person. Specific jobs and chores that you perform, such as personal care rituals like baths, require physical proximity. These can still go ahead, but it is prudent to perform some risk assessments first.
One way to do this is to look at the demographic profile of the person you’re providing care for. According to the government, people with characteristics like a high body mass index could be more vulnerable to coronavirus. If you regularly care for people who fall into these categories, it may be worth investing in some additional personal protective equipment to protect both you and your client.
In any case, it’s vital to ensure that you clean the area in which you work on a regular basis. Cleaning may already be one of the jobs you perform as part of your work: in that case, it may be worth changing your routine so that cleaning happens last, giving you the best possible chance of removing any traces of the virus. You can find more government advice by clicking here.
Your own morale
As a carer, it is likely that you do this work because of a vocation or a sense of commitment to the person you care for. But it’s also important to remember that you matter, too – and that your mental health needs to be looked after just as much as the health of the person you look after. During this time, it’s a good idea to make space for yourself to do things that you love – such as spending even half an hour on a favourite hobby or form of exercise, or even just relaxing in a bubble bath and reading a book. This helps to reinforce your own sense of identity, and to help you remember that you have other sides to yourself beyond your role as a carer.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that you have access to support networks during this time. This may be as simple as your own loved ones, such as a partner or close friend. Or it may be that you need to get some support from an external source. If you work for an agency or local authority, you may be able to access independent support through your line manager. Alternatively, you could speak to your insurer to see if they have any advice. If all else fails, it’s worth speaking to your GP to see if there’s anything they can do.