Information for families

Information for families of people we support.
If you are based in Scotland, please see our Scottish guidance page


What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are common across the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus.

The most common symptoms are a continuous cough and/or a high temperature (fever). People may also lose their sense of taste or smell. For most people, COVID-19 will be a mild infection.

However, some people are more vulnerable to getting severe symptoms.

There are 2 levels of higher risk:

  1. high risk – people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  2. moderate risk – people who are clinically vulnerable


High risk – clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • have been told by a doctor they have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • have a serious heart condition and are pregnant

People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will have received a letter from their GP and are highly advised to shield to protect themselves from COVID-19.

From 1 August 2020, shielding will be paused. The Government continues to advise people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to take extra care to protect themselves from COVID-19, such as following social distancing guidelines and to stay at home as much as possible.


Moderate risk – clinically vulnerable

People at moderate risk from coronavirus include people who:

  • are 70 or older
  • have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections
  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • are pregnant

People classed as clinically vulnerable will not get a letter from the NHS and are advised to continue to follow the Government guidance on keeping themselves safe, such as following social distancing rules and maintaining good hygiene.

With the changes implemented as part of Step 2 and 3, people who are clinically vulnerable are advised to minimise contact with other people.


Thera’s ‘preparedness’

We have had to plan for a ‘worst-case scenario’ including significant reduction of available staffing. We constantly review staff availability and prioritise support for people with the most critical need. However, we will not put people’s safety or wellbeing at risk and will liaise with family carers and other members of the person’s circle of support to ensure that we work together. And, we are recruiting new staff and will be raising our profile on social media.

Every member of our teams, in every role, has extensive training and all of us have recently completed additional and updated training in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Infection Control. Staff are all following national guidance in the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and cleaning and frequent disinfecting of surfaces.

Thera have some accessible resources on their website for people we support and their families about the virus and particularly how people can keep themselves safe. Staff are supporting people to make sure they understand it and what they should be doing.


What is ‘Stay at Home’ self–isolation?    

Self-isolation is for an individual when they show symptoms or for households when anyone in that household shows symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

The Government is asking that in this case people stay at home and do not go out at all, and avoid all contact with people. This will help control the spread of the virus.


When should I self–isolate?

You should self-isolate when you or a household member have the most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

The person who displays symptoms must self isolate for 7 days unless they still have a temperature, the rest of the household must isolate for 14 days, or 7 days post show symptoms. See diagram below for details (PHE):

You may also be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. In this instance you should follow the advice given to you by the NHS contact tracer.

New guidance from the Government says people who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.


What should I do when isolating?

You should remain in your home. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.

You will need to ask friends or relatives if you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication. Alternatively, you can order medication by phone or online. You can also order your shopping online. Make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if you order online. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

For further advice please follow the following link:


How will Thera support people if they have to stay at home and self-isolate?

We will be supporting people to self isolate if they have symptoms.

The guidance for Supported Living and Thera Group’s Pandemic Influenza and Infection Control policies tell support teams how to do this, which describes the proper use of personal protective equipment when supporting someone who has symptoms of COVID -19.

These policies also explain how to support people in the house, manage cleaning and laundry.

As soon as someone in a shared household shows symptoms staff will need to support the whole household (the people living there, not working there), to follow the Government’s stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.


Why ‘stay alert’?

The Government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.

In March, the Government asked us to stay home to save lives and help control the spread of the virus. This was the first part of their plan.

Stage one includes:

  • social distancing measures – people must stay 2 metres away from people they do not live with
  • unlimited exercise outdoors with one other person from your household – no teams sports are allowed under stage one.
  • people who can work from home should do so, and only travel to work if their workplace is open
  • non-essential workplaces, such as non-essential retail and hospitality, will be closed
  • people must avoid using public transport
  • schools will be closed, except for vulnerable children and children of key workers
  • clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to shield to protect themselves from coronavirus
  • clinically vulnerable people are advised to take extra care, but do not need to be shielded
  • there will be restrictions on travelling abroad, with measures in place for self-isolation

The second phase of the Government plan advises that we need to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep 2m distance from other people, where we can
  • Maintain good hygiene by washing our hands regularly

The things that we are able to do under stage two includes:

  • schools and early years settings are allowed to start re-opening to certain age groups
  • some non-essential retail can re-open, where it is safe to do so
  • cultural and sporting events are allowed to take place behind closed doors
  • re-opening some public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures
  • people who live alone can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other househol

If the spread of the virus increases as a result of the changes to lockdown, then the Government will need to delay the changes until it is safe for them to happen again.

Step 3 of the Government’s plan advises us to:

  • stay 2 metres apart and if you can’t do that then keep 1 meter plus (1 meter apart plus other measures which include hand washing, limiting time with people and being outdoors, wearing face coverings)
  • wash your hands regularly
  • wear face coverings on public transport, or where you are indoors in a crowded environment where distancing is not possible
  • follow the rules when visiting businesses
  • get a test done immediately if you develop symptoms
  • and self-isolate if you are asked to by NHS Test and Trace
In addition under step 3:
  • remaining non-essential retail can re-open, along with hospitality (such as hotels) and leisure (such as zoos and playgrounds), as long as they meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines
  • places of worship can resume some services, subject to strict guidelines
  • people can meet with one other household indoors or outdoors, including staying over, as long as they observe social distancing and hygiene guidance, such as washing your hands
  • People can continue to meet with up to 6 people from different households outside, including in private gardens. It will be illegal to be in groups over 30 people.


What is the NHS Test and Trace service?

The NHS test and trace service will help to control the rate of reproduction (R) of COVID-19, reduce the spread of the infection and save lives.

The service launched in England on Thursday 28 May 2020.

The NHS Test and Trace service focuses on:

  1. Testing: Making sure people can be tested as soon as they show symptoms.
  2. Tracing: Finding people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus so they can self-isolate, even if they have no symptoms themselves.


I have tested positive for COVID-19, how does the NHS Test and Trace service work?

If you test positive for coronavirus, you will receive a text or email within 24 hours from the NHS Test and Trace service with instructions of how to share details of people you have been in close, recent contact with and places you have visited.

You must respond to the message as soon as possible so that they can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be asked to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of the NHS contact tracers.


I have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, what happens next?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by an NHS contact tracer. They will give you advice on what to do next.

New guidance from the Government says people who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.


Do members of my household have to self-isolate if I have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

No they will not have to self-isolate, however you should avoid contact with them as far as possible and follow the Government guidance on hygiene.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 then anyone you live with must self-isolate for 14 days and you must request to be tested. You should complete your 14-day period of self-isolation even if your result comes back negative as you may have had the virus without knowing. However if you test negative, other members of your household will not need to continue self-isolating.


What is shielding?

Please visit our Shielding information section to find out more about shielding.


What is social distancing?

The guidance up to 4th July advises people to keep 2 meters apart. Social distancing helps us cut down on the number of social interactions we have, whereas self isolation is far more strict and is currently only for people who themselves or the people they live with have symptoms (for more information, see:

From 4 July 2020 the guidance will change to ‘1 metre plus’, (1 meter apart plus other measures which include hand washing, limiting time with people and being outdoors, wearing face coverings). You should continue to try and maintain a distance of 2 metres from people, where possible.

Who has to socially distance?

Social distancing advice applies to everyone and those with increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) are being advised to be particularly stringent in following the measures.

Government are advising that we all:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID -19).
  2. Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible*.
  3. Work from home, where possible.
  4. Use telephone or on-line services to contact GPs or other essential services.

*From 15 June 2020 it is a legal requirement to wear a face covering when using public transport. More info:

You must also wear a face covering when attending hospital and other healthcare settings, either as a visitor or patient. There are some exemptions, see section below ‘Are there exemptions from wearing a face covering?’

For more information visit:


How are people with a learning disability affected by social distancing? 

The guidance on who is at higher risk of coronavirus has changed. Having a learning disability does not automatically mean people will be at high risk of severe illness. However, many people we support will also be older and or have an underlying health condition, which does put them at high risk.

Everyone must follow the 1 metre+ social distancing rules, even if they are not at high risk of severe illness. This will be incredibly difficult for some people to understand, accept and follow.

We have created accessible information, videos and tools to help. However, for many people, as in other aspects of their lives, will require the help of family, friends and the teams that know them well to help them cope day to day and make decisions in their best interests.


Can people have visitors in their homes?

From 4 July 2020, you can meet in groups of up to two households (your support bubble counts as one household) in any location – public or private, indoors or outdoors.

You do not always have to meet with the same household – you can meet with different households at different times. However, you must follow the social distancing guidelines – staying at least 1 metre away from anyone who is not part of your household – and continue to follow hygiene advice, such as washing your hands etc.

You can also continue to meet up to 6 people from different households outdoors, if you maintain a distance of at least 1 metre plus.

What are support bubbles?

The Government has announced that from 13 June 2020, people who live alone will be allowed to form a support bubble with one other household. They will be allowed to see each other outside of social distancing rules and will be able to visit each other in their homes.

From 6 July 2020, people who are shielding and live alone can also form a support bubble with another household.


Will building based Day Opportunities/Hubs/Cafés remain open? 

We are following the Government guidelines and have been busy looking at how we can make places COVID-19 secure.

Please refer to the local company pages for updates on the opening of these, or contact the local team.


Helping people stay in touch with friends and families

Many people we support will already call and skype relatives or use social media. If they don’t these methods support staff could help people keep in touch with families and friends. Please support people to consider and arrange these options using normal process to support people to make decisions around purchases.


Will planned health appointments change?

Yes. The individual will be supported to contact GPs and health centres by phone or on-line.

Be aware that non essential appointments and operations may be postponed. Check with GPs and consultants about planned appointments for people.

From 15 June, people must wear a face covering when going to hospital, either as a visitor or as an outpatient.

However, some groups of people are exempt from wearing a face covering. Please see Government guidance for more information:


Are there exemptions for wearing face coverings?

Some people are exempt from wearing face coverings. This includes:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard

Please visit for more information.

You can also download free exemption cards from Keep Safe / Photosymbols:


What does social distancing mean for how staff go about their work?

The Government’s social distancing guidance talks about social life and work and is trying to make it especially possible for key workers, including social care workers to continue.

However, the principles of social distancing are for everyone and we will encourage social distancing practices at work wherever possible. Where this is not possible, staff will be wearing the appropriate PPE.


Last updated: 3 July 2020, 08.35am