COVID-19 support As per the Government’s advice, everyone must stay alert to help stop the spread of COVID-19. For more information on this along with guidance on how to stop the infection spreading visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19 Priority supermarket delivery slots now available to blind and partially sighted people in England who need them After months of campaigning by RNIB, Guide Dogs and Visionary and TPT, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recognised specific challenges faced by people with sight loss, among others. Defra has secured online shopping slots from a number of major supermarkets for people whose independence has been challenged by the lockdown, including those with sight loss. The scheme is particularly aimed at those who don’t have friends or family nearby who can easily shop for them. This comes after 22,653 individuals joined us and our sector partners to ask the government to work with supermarkets to ensure blind and partially sighted people have access to vital supplies. Thank you all for your support. Blind and partially sighted people have struggled to properly access supermarkets and have been unable to find online shopping slots. This is because priority online shopping slots are being given to people the Government has identified as ‘vulnerable’. However the list being used to define this group is based on vulnerability to coronavirus, and doesn’t yet take other barriers to shopping or accessing services into account. Social distancing also makes it much harder for blind and partially sighted people to shop because many people rely on a guide who might not be part of their household, and some stores have changed their layout or queuing systems to encourage people to stay two metres apart. Now people in England can be referred to the shopping slots through RNIB’s Helpline. Callers will speak to a member of our Sight Loss Advice Service who will assess the individual’s need and allocate them a slot if appropriate. People can access this new support via RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999, from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. Read more on this on the RNIB webpage Listen to RNIB's Director of Services, David Clarke on BBC Radio 4 InTouch Food access options Defra (the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs) has created a document to help local authorities and charities signpost people to commercially available food options including telephone ordering, food box or prepared meal delivery and other non-supermarket food delivery providers. Defra food access options list Do you need help from an NHS volunteer? If you are currently not supported and need some help with shopping, a prescription collection or a friendly chat then NHS Volunteer Responders are ready to help. Visit the NHS Volunteer Responders website Street design guidance for local authorities In partnership with Guide Dogs, RNIB and Visionary, TPT helped to develop guidance for local authorities on street design in the wake of COVID-19. Increasing the space available for walking is particularly important for blind and partially sighted people who may struggle to maintain social distancing from other pedestrians they cannot see. It is important changes, including those intended to encourage cycling, maintain or improve accessibility of our streets for everyone. The guidance outlines the importance of communication with visually impaired people on the changes and their reliance on physical cues such as kerbs, tactile paving and controlled crossings to navigate safely. It also highlights the importance of a physical demarcation between pedestrian areas and cycle tracks. You can read the full guidance here. Access to Work Thomas Pocklington Trust is leading work with national partners to address Access To Work issues during COVID-19 including the current need for physical signatures for claims. We have held detailed discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on this issue and can announce that the DWP has now provided new online guidance about Access to Work during COVID-19: Access to Work: factsheet for customers This includes advice for those making claims and the need to send physical claim forms. The guidance says “If you cannot leave home or ask someone else to post your claim for costs, contact your Access to Work adviser and ask if you can send your claim by email. They will tell you what you need to do. You can also send the email from your employer of your support worker by email.” We have confirmed with the DWP that there is an option to email all parts of the claim form. However, this must first be agreed with the adviser and be classed as a reasonable adjustment. In the longer term, work is underway to develop an online portal for Access to Work customers. While there is no date currently set for the release of this portal, TPT and other charities are working with the DWP to ensure accessibility of the system for all. Accessible communications Together with other disability sector organisations, we are lobbying the Prime Minister’s Office, highlighting the inaccessible government updates on coronavirus and asking him to appoint a national lead on the issue. The Government has consistently been sharing vital public health information and other updates in a way that excludes people with sensory or complex disabilities, despite reminders from many disability organisations. Read our open letter to the PM We are delighted to report, following this joint letter to the PM above, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP, has appointed a senior lead for accessible information. Claire Pimm, Director of National Resilience Communications at the Cabinet Office, has been appointed as the senior lead for this. In response to our comments that the Government had consistently been sharing vital public health information and other updates in a way that excludes people with sensory or complex disabilities, the Cabinet Office has now reissued guidance to all Government Departments reminding them of their duties under the Equality Act that “reasonable adjustments” are made to ensure communications are accessible. Guidance for self-employed individuals Many blind and partially sighted people are self-employed and are currently being adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This short guide outlines the support the government has put in place and some tips, you might find helpful, on managing finances. Support for self-employed guide Guidance for students We have put together some advice and guidance for students with vision impairment and professionals supporting students entering Higher Education during the Covid-19 crisis. Guidance for students with vision impairmentStudent Support Service briefing: Choosing a university during COVID-19Guidance for Higher Education professionals supporting students with vision impairment Support for parents and carers of children with vision impairment We have put together advice, guidance and resources for parents and carers of children with vision impairment during the Covid-19 crisis. FAQs Blind and partially sighted people have been contacting us with a range of questions related to COVID-19. We’ve come together with other sight loss sector organisations to share these FAQs which will be frequently updated: www.sightadvicefaq.org.uk/independent-living/Covid-19 We have a pulled together an outline on what each of the national sight loss charities are doing during the pandemic with links to their websites and how to get in touch. You can download this here: National sight loss charities advice page COVID-19 testing for blind and partially sighted people COVID-19 tests are now available to anybody in England who has symptoms. You can apply for a test online here. This test is called an antibody test and will tell you if you currently have the virus. It involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud. You can do the swab yourself (if you are aged 12 or over) or someone can do it for you. The tests are available at regional testing centres, mobile testing centres and via home test kits. At regional drive through testing centres or temporary mobile testing centres blind and partially sighted people can be supported by a sighted driver and advisory staff are available at the centres to provide assistance. Home testing kits are self-administered and the feedback from blind and partially sighted people is that the instructions are not currently in an accessible format and the test can be challenging to administer. TPT is currently working with sector partners and the government to improve the accessibility of testing instructions to include alternative formats. We are also aiming to do some targeted work with volunteers to look for ways to make the actual test simpler to administer for blind and partially sighted people. The ambition is to improve the COVID-19 test and any future testing processes that may be developed. Can you help? The NHS is looking for volunteers in a number of roles. This includes collecting and delivering shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating; providing transport home for patients who are medically fit for discharge from hospital; transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites or simply checking in via telephone with people who are self isolating. If you think you could help, register here: www.goodsamapp.org/NHS Advice for our residential tenants Any tenant occupying one of our properties who has a maintenance issue should continue to contact the Tandem Help Desk: Telephone – 0203 942 7997 Email – [email protected] Any questions concerning the payment of rent or other tenancy matters please contact Stephanie Green at Tandem: Telephone – 07957 363623 Email – [email protected] Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the borough in which Pocklington Lodge sits, has launched a community aid network, with a central phone line and email hub – staffed by redeployed council officers and supported by more than 1,300 volunteers who have signed up to help. The freephone 0800 145 6095 and email [email protected] will be open from 9am to 7pm, offering urgent food deliveries and support for those suffering from loneliness or isolation. Residents who need urgent help – and friends, family or relatives of those who need help – are encouraged to call or email for assistance. Handy apps during COVID-19 At this time, when technology is so important for enabling blind and partially sighted people to live the life they want to lead, we have created a list of accessible apps and solutions for greater independence, support, communication and entertainment for blind and partially sighted people. Take a look at our handy guide here. Need to get in touch? Pocklington Hub is closed and our teams are working from home. If you have an enquiry and know the contact details of that staff member, please contact them directly. For all other enquiries contact: [email protected] or telephone: 0208 995 0880. Stay healthy. Stay safe.