As of 19 July, England has moved on to the final phase – step 4 – of the government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, and most of the restrictions in place to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic have lifted. In Scotland, government have moved to “level 0,” and in Wales, restrictions are at “level 1” with the move to “level 0” slated for August 7. We have been thinking about what people in Shared Lives can do to try to get on with life as safely as possible and in a way that upholds people’s rights. There is, at the time of writing, no government guidance for the social care sector specifically.
While many of us will be looking forward to a return to a life more as it was before the pandemic, many will be concerned about “opening up,” especially those people who are clinically vulnerable. The government itself has advised caution, and cases of Covid-19 are still very high.
To that end we encourage everyone – Shared Lives scheme workers, carers, and those being supported, to continue to follow government guidance to stop the spread of Covid-19 and on protecting people defined as extremely vulnerable (updated as of July 19.) In particular we encourage you to:
As of July 19, double vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff in England who have been told to self-isolate will be permitted to continue to work in exceptional circumstances and after having a negative PCR test followed by daily negative lateral flow tests for a minimum of seven days. The exceptional circumstances are where staff absence may lead to a significant risk of harm.
Earlier in the year we already received clarification from a contact at CQC that Shared Lives carers who support people who live permanently with them in live-in arrangements, do not necessarily have to stop providing care in the event of a notification to isolate from the NHS or even a positive Covid test.
We recognise that not being able to undertake a respite break could cause a serious risk of harm. However, we encourage schemes to explore all other options before going ahead with a planned respite stay with a Shared Lives carer who has been told to isolate. For example, arranging the break with another Shared Lives carer. Where all other options have been exhausted, the Shared Lives scheme should weigh up the risks of not having the break, against the possible risk of infection with Covid-19.
The person being supported in Shared Lives should be given information about the risks in a way that they can understand, and their wishes must be taken into account. If they lack capacity to make an informed choice about these risks, then a decision must be taken in their best interest. Ultimately, where this situation occurs, the decision must rest with the Shared Lives scheme.
The latest change means that planned respite arrangement can now go ahead even if the Shared Lives carer scheduled to provide the respite break has been notified by Test and Trace to isolate, if their absence could lead to “serious risk of harm,” providing: