It is now possible for those who were asked to work from home due to the pandemic to receive tax relief for the entire year (even if this was only for a single day).
For more information go to:
You can make a claim here and the process is quite straightforward:
Friday 30 October 2020 

Personal Assistants can now access a free flu jab.

You can download a letter of entitlement for PAs to receive a free flu vaccine by downloading the following link: PA flu vaccination letter

Here is the government’s guidance:

Those eligible for a flu vaccination

All adult social care workers who are in direct contact with patients and service users should get the vaccine, including:

  • those working in a registered residential care or nursing home and who are directly involved in the care of patients or service users
  • those working for a registered domiciliary care provider and who are directly involved in the care of patients or service users
  • those employed through personal budgets and or personal health budgets, such as personal assistants

Why you should get a flu vaccination

Getting the vaccine will help to protect you, your family, and the people you care for from getting the flu.

For people in at-risk groups, such as those aged 65 or over or with an underlying health condition, flu can be a serious disease and can cause death.

As an adult social care worker, you will be caring for many people in these at-risk groups. Getting the vaccine will mean you are much less likely to spread the flu to them and will help to protect them this winter.

Vaccination reduces the spread of flu among staff and service users, keeping social care services running and reducing the burden on the NHS during the winter. This is true every year, but it is particularly important this year, as coronavirus (COVID-19) is still in circulation.

As the symptoms for flu and COVID are very similar, widespread vaccination against flu will make it easier for us to target COVID-19 testing and avoid disruption to care services.

How to get a flu vaccination

Your employer is responsible for ensuring that you receive a flu vaccination. They may do this by arranging for you to be vaccinated at your place of work or by arranging for you to be vaccinated off-site. Your employer should let you know which scheme they are running. If not, please ask them.

In the specific instances where an employer does not provide a flu vaccination scheme, you can still receive the flu vaccination free of charge from a GP or pharmacy through the complementary NHS scheme if you’re an adult social care worker employed by a:

  • registered residential care or nursing home
  • registered homecare organisation hospice

Or if you provide social care through direct payments or personal health budgets.

There is specific flu vaccination guidance for personal care assistants.

Identification needed to prove you are a social care worker

You do not need to present your ID at your local GP or pharmacy. However, we will be advising employers to issue staff with a letter saying you are an adult social care worker to make the process as easy as possible for you.

Personal assistants will be provided with a letter signed by their employer confirming their eligibility for vaccination. See the Personal care assistants guidance for further information.

When to get the flu vaccine

You can get the flu vaccine throughout October, November and December. This year the demand for the flu vaccine has been higher than usual. This has meant that while a lot of people have been able to get vaccinated, some people have not been able to get vaccinated straight away as some GP practices and pharmacies have used their early supplies of flu vaccine, due to the level of demand. Overall there is enough flu vaccine for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. If you are eligible and are asked to wait, there is still time before flu season starts, which is normally in December.

Safety of the flu vaccination

The flu vaccines used in the national NHS programme have a good safety record. The vaccines are thoroughly tested before they are made available in England.

You may have a mild fever and aching muscles a few days after having the vaccine and your arm may be sore at the injection site. Further information is available on possible side effects.

Those who shouldn’t get a flu vaccination

Most adults can have the injected flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. If you are uncertain whether you should avoid it due to a medical condition, you should speak to your GP.

You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection if you have an egg allergy. This is because some flu vaccines are made using eggs. Ask a GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.

If you’re ill with a high temperature, it’s best to wait until you’re better before having the flu vaccine.

Effectiveness of the flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against flu, which can cause serious illness and death in at-risk groups.

Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you from getting flu.

Flu is caused by a number of different strains of the flu virus and the vaccine only protects against those that are most likely to cause flu during this year’s flu season. As a result, there’s not a 100% guarantee that you won’t get flu if you’ve been vaccinated.

However, even if you do get flu after being vaccinated, studies have shown that you’re likely to have a much milder and shorter illness.

You cannot catch flu from the flu vaccine because there are no live viruses in the vaccine.

Getting the flu vaccination every year

The strains of flu in circulation change every year, so the protection from the vaccine you had last year will decrease over time.

New flu vaccines are produced every year to protect against the strains most likely to be in circulation, which is why people are advised to be vaccinated every year.

Refusing to be vaccinated

It’s important that as many health and social care workers as possible get the vaccine – it protects you, your family, and the people you care for from the flu – but if you don’t want to have the vaccine for whatever reason, you don’t have to have it.’

Thursday 29th October 2020

A disabled campaigner is on hunger strike in response to the failure of his local authority and the NHS to provide him with the support package he needs to “just live as a human being”.

Jimmy Telesford said his experience in Lambeth, south London, had convinced him of the need for major reform of the “abusive” and “outrageous” social care system.

He called for a new system that gives disabled people “complete control” over their support.

Telesford ate nothing between 2 October and Monday (12 October) this week and was drinking only diet 7-UP to keep himself hydrated.

He was admitted to St Thomas’s on Monday on the advice of his doctor, and agreed to take on food and fluids.

But he was discharged from hospital later the same day and restarted his hunger strike when he returned home.

He had earlier spoken to Disability News Service (DNS) from his bed at home and said that he had “nothing to lose” and was “prepared to die” unless Labour-run Lambeth council or the local NHS clinical commissioning group (through NHS continuing healthcare) provided him with the support he needed.

Telesford, who was working as an advocacy worker with a disability organisation until June, said: “I don’t want to die but I will if I cannot get the independent living support I need to live as a disabled powered wheelchair-user.

“My key concern is that I am not getting enough support. It doesn’t meet my needs and it never has. I don’t really want to carry on the way I am.

“The fact that I have to [go on hunger strike] just shows how difficult things are. I have to be prepared for the idea that I am going to die.”

He currently receives between 24 and 28 hours a week of support from Lambeth council, but believes he needs support throughout the day to ensure he can have a normal life.

He is also angry about the quality of the support he receives, and has lodged complaints about the care agency that currently provides that support.

He said: “The quality of life that you’re expected to have as a disabled person from a social services point of view is disgusting. You wouldn’t treat a dog like that.

“Even if I have another assessment, it’s not based on my needs, it’s based on what they are willing to give. It’s just care needs, and that’s it.

“Life is about a lot more than having a shower.”

He added: “We are the fifth richest country in the world. Nobody really understands what it is like to live as a disabled person in the trenches. It does your head in.

“Why can’t disabled people have complete control?”

He was given another assessment by the council after returning from hospital this week.

But he said: “They just want to fill out a form, tick a box and move on. It’s not acceptable.

“I honestly don’t think they care. I don’t think [social services] see disabled people as people.”

He had earlier warned the council not to be “under any illusion”.

He told the council: “I will go through this process 1,000 times if I have to as long as I have breath in my body I will fight Lambeth social services and their partners. Until I get what I need. Or die trying.”

He said he hoped that if he did die, it would show that “not everybody is willing to live under the oppression of the status quo”.

Inclusion London, the pan-London disabled people’s organisation, said: “We stand in solidarity with Jimmy and salute his determination to fight for the rights of disabled people. We hope he recovers soon.

“Although local authorities are in a difficult position, they still make political choices about how to prioritise their resources.

“We urge Lambeth Council to see the devastating consequences of its decisions and actions and ensure its disabled residents, including Jimmy, get appropriate social care support to live a normal life.

“Many disabled people all over the country will relate to Jimmy’s situation. The current social care system is not helping us live a good quality life.

“It is oppressive and often humiliating with many disabled people’s lives reduced to just being clean and fed.

“With a decade of budget cuts and increased demand combined with the laws that place all power in the local authorities’ hands without real and effective means to challenge, it is shocking, but not surprising, that people have to use such extreme actions to fight for their basic human rights.

“This is why we are calling for a reform of social care support; it must be based on our right to independent living and it must give disabled people true power, control and resources to live a normal life.”

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “Lambeth Council has worked to support Mr Telesford over an extended period of time, and we are both alarmed and concerned at the current situation.

“We are listening, and given the breadth of his concerns have offered Mr Telesford an opportunity to discuss and urgently review his services.

“Lambeth Council is determined to provide excellent quality adult services to all that need them in the borough, and remain fully committed to that pledge.”

A spokesperson for NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The CCG is very sorry to hear of Mr Telesford’s situation.

“His appeal against the outcome of his NHS continuing healthcare (CHC) assessment, which was made earlier in the year, unfortunately was delayed in line with national guidance issued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health and care resources were refocussed on combatting the threat to people’s health posed by the virus.

“Across the country, work is now getting underway to address those waiting for CHC assessments, including where appeals have been lodged against previous decisions.

“Locally here in south-east London, that work is now starting and Mr Telesford’s appeal will be reviewed as soon as is possible.

“We are aware that Lambeth Council’s adult social care team remains in contact with Mr Telesford and is offering him ongoing support.”

News provided by John Pring at 15 October 2020

Disabled people who have been shielding at home say they are having to rely on peer support and their own judgement to protect themselves from the pandemic, after despairing at the lack of clear government guidance.

Many of those who have shielded from the virus, often without pause since March, said this week that they had no confidence in Boris Johnson and his government.

Among their concerns are the lack of access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for their personal assistants (PAs), and the difficulty of securing food deliveries, as the number of COVID-19 cases across the country continues to rise.

The grassroots disabled people’s organisation Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) said it was “very concerned” about the impact of a potential second national lockdown on disabled people who are still shielding, and their families.

One member said: “From the beginning of the pandemic, the government’s guidance and advice has been unclear, confusing and inaccessible, which has only added to the anxiety many of us feel.”

BRIL founder Mark Williams said the government’s mixed messages” were “putting people at harm”.

Another BRIL member said: “Disabled people have told us they do not trust the government, and are shielding regardless of the constantly changing regulations.”

A BRIL spokesperson added: “The experience of disabled people and people with chronic illness during the first lockdown, both those who were included on shielding lists and those who were missed off, has been ignored.

“As one member said: ‘If we are going to be shielded – they need to get it right. There are three of us who shielded, but we didn’t get the letter. It seemed that it was very ad hoc.’

“This cannot happen again. The government has a duty to directly consult with us and our organisations. A failure to do this will have deadly consequences.”

Disabled campaigner Fleur Perry, who has not left her home for more than six months, said: “I feel like there’s less information available than before.

“I still haven’t been out since March, and I doubt I’ll be going out for the rest of the year unless there’s a dramatic improvement somehow.

“Even though case numbers are rising, there’s been no update on precautions for shielders.

“The guidance makes it very clear that it’s now people’s choice how safe they want to feel, rather than a team effort.

“We’re going to have to continue to support one another in finding information and resources and new ways of doing things. Until the government steps up, it’s up to us.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, a disabled crossbench peer, who spent months shielding, said: “I think we all need to make our own decisions about our safety and continue to be very careful when mixing with those that we do not have to.

“What government still doesn’t appear to understand, is that disabled people who require care/support of another person, whether that be a PA, agency care, informal carer etc, cannot self-isolate.

“Therefore, we should be able to have priority access to testing both for ourselves and their essential support people. Plus, easy access to PPE.

“We are on the frontline and don’t want to become metaphorical cannon fodder again if the virus returns with a vengeance in the winter.”

She said that one of her PAs had had a cold recently and wanted to check that she was safe to work but was denied a test.

Baroness Campbell said she had tried for six weeks during the height of the pandemic to obtain basic gloves, masks and aprons, and by June had received just one box of gloves.

She added: “I have now sourced my own, at a cost, but I can afford it – many can’t.”

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for Disability Rights UK, said: “Shielders have been left adrift since the protections granted to them at the start of lockdown were removed in late summer.

“With increases in the rate of infection and hospital admissions, and with great swathes of the population in local lockdowns, the government is failing to support and protect those who are clinically vulnerable to the virus.

“DR UK has asked the government to produce guidance on shielding for local authorities, health bodies and employers, and to give financial, practical and emotional support to those individuals who want to shield on the basis of their individual medical needs.

“We are particularly concerned for those who can’t work from home and are required to return to work.

“Many people have already had to choose between their life and their livelihood. As infection rates rise and the furlough period ends on 31 October, more people will face this dilemma.”

The current government advice to the millions of disabled people in England who have previously been told they are “clinically extremely vulnerable” (CEV) is that they should continue to “take precautions” but “do not need to shield at the moment”.

Areas where there is a local lockdown have “specific guidance” for shielders, but the advice for shielders yesterday (Wednesday) in Bolton, Greater Manchester, the north-east of England, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire, was matching that for the rest of the country, other than a warning that “it is important that you continue to take precautions”.

In Leicester and some parts of the north-west of England, those who are CEV have been advised to shield until 5 October, when “formal shielding” will be paused and they will be given guidance locally, while being advised to continue to “take precautions”.

Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, who shielded for several months during the summer, has written to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock with her concerns about the “ambiguity” that remains about support for CEV people, including in the areas where there has been a local lockdown.

She also raised concerns about those disabled employees unable to return to work, including the inadequate level of statutory sick pay, the failure of the chancellor’s new less-generous furlough scheme to mention CEV people, and continuing concerns over the rates of benefits.

She told Hancock that he had failed to answer when asked in the House of Commons for his advice to shielders, and called on him to “clarify this advice urgently, so that CEV people are not once again made to feel like an afterthought”.

Kathy Bole, co-chair of Disability Labour, said she was worried about the support that cash-strapped local authorities would be able to provide during local lockdowns, and the prospect of further cuts to social care.

She said: “I am shielding because my husband is extremely vulnerable. I have gone out twice in the last six weeks.

“I am not comfortable at all with the mask arrangements and how many are just not wearing them. I don’t know how I will cope if he gets ill.

“My own mental health is not doing well and that is because I have no faith in anything the government says.

“I know so many disabled people who will not go out and if there is no one to help them with shopping and the like, we will see many more people die.”

Fran Springfield, her co-chair, said she shared Boles’s concerns on shielding.

She added: “I have continued to shield, like many of my friends. I’m only leaving home for urgent medical appointments.

“I’m appalled by people not wearing masks and not social distancing, putting people like me at risk.

“We should be following medical science and the respected experts. The government must not be allowed to put lives before profit.

“I have no faith that decisions will be made in the best interests of disabled people.”

She added: “In Lambeth, the mutual aid groups that were so busy and supportive at the beginning of the pandemic are now suffering from volunteer fatigue, donations have dried up and it’s difficult to find people willing to help out.

“I’m noticing too that greedy shoppers are now causing supermarkets to limit purchases of essentials.

“I still have limited choices when I’m trying to shop online and eight-hour delivery slots. Totally useless for anyone who needs a PA or carer to put away frozen foods.”

She said she agreed with London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, that the capital should be placed under a local lockdown.

Vici Richardson, community care and personalisation advisor for the disabled people’s organisation Disability North, said there were “so many mixed messages and no real guidance”, while the local lockdowns had caused “further confusion”.

Richardson, who has a disabled teenage son who remains on the CEV list, said: “There has been nothing mentioned on any of our local authority communications about shielding, and we are in a high-risk area.”

Her son’s clinicians have received no guidance to pass to the family that they should reshield so they have been “left to make our own judgements”.

She said: “Some of the disabled people I work with stopped PAs coming in from March to August, then they began to bring them back in.

“Some of these are already making the difficult decisions to stop them, but with furlough ending and many people back in work, the network they may have depended on in March is not there.”

She said some disabled people with PAs were still struggling to access the correct PPE.

Her family has been told to source its own PPE, and use direct payments funding to do so, but that they can go back to the council for help if they struggle, although she said other local authorities were supplying PPE to disabled people directly.

She said there were also concerns over shopping deliveries.

She said: “Already disabled people who managed to get back delivery slots are now struggling again and because they aren’t on the clinically vulnerable list, they can’t have priority.”

Disabled campaigner and retired Paralympian Chris Channon, another on the CEV list, said he was continuing to shield, despite the government’s advice.

He said the prime minister, Boris Johnson, had “so muddled the waters it’s difficult for anyone to have any real confidence in anything that he and his ministers are saying.

“Just days after telling office workers it was ok to return to the workplace he suddenly instructs them to work from home while, at the same time, telling those of us who are shielding that it was OK to go out.”

Although he managed to book a delivery from Sainsbury’s last week for the first time since March, he said he found the isolation “difficult to deal with at times” although “in many respects I’m lucky as I still feel in control”.

He said be believed the government should reinstate the delivery of food parcels for CEV people and enable a “clear line of communication” between health experts and those in the CEV group so they could hear from someone who “doesn’t act on behalf of the government”.

*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page

News provided by John Pring at 1 October 2020