COVID-19 POLICY UPDATE 30 May - 5 June 2020

Read the latest COVID-19 update from our policy team which covers information on social security, health, employment, help for the blind and partially sighted, TV licence and the COVID-19 community helpline.
Social Security Changes, Announcements, Information
  • Official DfC Announcements
  • Changes to COVID-19 Regulations
  • New Statutory Rule for COVID-19 Related SSP
  • Reopening of Hotels and Other Tourist Accommodation
  • Workers’ Compensation Legislation Amended
  • Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct

Health Updates
  • Testing for COVID-19
  • £11.7m Care Home Support Package 
  • Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer
  • COVID-19 Survey for Those Shielding
  • Get Early Advice and Treatment for Cancer
  • Acute Care at Home
  • Get Information about Changes to Dental Practices
  • Trends and Characteristics of COVID-19
  • Anti-viral Treatment for COVID-19
  • Safer Shopping Advice
HMRC Updates
  • Job Retention Scheme Update
  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Update
  • HMRC’s Time to Pay Service
  • UC and Redundancy
Other Information
  • Covid-19 Community Helpline
  • Paper on Moving out of Lockdown
  • Help for Blind and Partially-sighted
  • TV Licence Update
  • Guidance for Care Settings

Social Security Changes, Announcements, Information

Official DfC Announcements

Changes to COVID-19 Regulations

  • The Executive announced a number of changes to the Coronavirus Regulations, to be introduced from Monday 8 June.  These will bring in minor relaxations to the restrictions:
    • Those shielding will be able to spend time outside with people from their own household or a person from another household whilst ensuring social distancing is observed.
    • People will be able to leave home to attend to the needs or welfare of an animal or animals.
    • Outdoor marriages and civil partnership ceremonies will be allowed, with the number of people attending limited to 10.
    • Outdoor sports facilities will be permitted to re-open.
    • Outdoor non-food retailers will be permitted to reopen, including new and used car retailers; retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries/trailers; retailers of caravans or motorhomes, and retailers of agricultural or other large machinery.
    • Non-food retail outlets with lower frequency customer visits and/or with a greater propensity for larger store areas will be permitted to reopen, but only where those outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.
  • Read the full details at this link https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/news/executive-confirms-changes-covid-19-regulations

New Statutory Rule for COVID-19 Related SSP

  • The Schedule to the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations (NI) 1982 has been amended by a new statutory rule, the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations (NI) 2020 (SR.No.89/2020).  The new rule adds a person who has been notified to self-isolate due to contact with a person infected with COVID-19 to list of qualifying people.  The legislation is available to read here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2020/89/made

Reopening of Hotels and Other Tourist Accommodation

Workers’ Compensation Legislation Amended

  • New regulations have been introduced to amend the Pneumoconiosis, etc., (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2020.  The new regulations are related to the annual up-rating of social security benefits and pensions and increase the amounts payable in lump sum compensation payments to sufferers of certain dust-related diseases.  The new regulations are available here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2020/26/pdfs/nisr_20200026_en.pdf

Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct

Health Updates

Testing for COVID-19

  • Everyone over 5 years of age in NI, with symptoms of COVID-19, is now eligible for testing.  Find out more about testing at www.pha.site/testing-covid19

£11.7m Care Home Support Package

  • The Department of Health announced an £11.7m package of support for care homes this week.  The package will enable homes to pay staff 80% of their salary when on sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons.  It will provide support with cleaning costs because many care homes require enhanced cleaning regimes to reduce infection transmission.  And the package will provide support with specialist equipment to help identify symptoms of infection as early as possible; read more at https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-announces-ps117m-care-home-support-package

Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer

COVID-19 Survey for Those Shielding

  • The Department of Health wants to hear from people who have been shielding to gather their insights into the impact of shielding and the measures that could be used to support the transition from shielding to public engagement.  The Department has launched a survey inviting responses from the public.
  • Find out more information about the consultation and how to access the survey here https://patientclientcouncil.hscni.net/get-involved/shielding-during-covid-19/

Get Early Advice and Treatment for Cancer

Acute Care at Home

  • The Regional Surge Plan for the Care Home Sector, which identified the need for ‘Clinical Care Pathways’ to help manage the effects of COVID-19 in care homes, has been extended to include Acute Care at Home / Enhanced Care at Home.  More information at this link http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/acute-care-home/

Get Information about Changes to Dental Practices

  • Dental practices have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Information explaining the changes that have taken place in dental practices and how they have impacted on patients, see http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/coronavirus/#Dental

Trends and Characteristics of COVID-19

Anti-viral Treatment for COVID-19

Safer Shopping Advice

  • The PHA have issued advice to help make shopping trips safer during the crisis.  The safer shopping booklet and a poster which can be displayed in shops are available in a range of languages at www.pha.site/safershopping

HMRC and Employment Updates

Job Retention Scheme Update

  • Starting from 1 July 2020, businesses using the job retention scheme will have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work part-time.  The government will continue to pay 80% of wages for any of their normal hours they don’t work up until the end of August.  This is happening a month earlier than previously announced.
  • From August, the grant provided through the scheme will be slowly tapered.
  • The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June.
  • Further details are available from this link https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-self-employment-support-scheme-and-confirms-furlough-next-steps

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Update

  • SEISS has been extended for anybody whose trade continues to be, or is newly, adversely affected by COVID-19.  Eligible self-employed people will be able to claim a second and final SEISS grant in August that will be taxable and worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits for three months.  The grant will be paid out in a single instalment and capped at £6,570 in total.
  • The eligibility criteria for the second grant will be the same as for the first grant.  People don’t need to have claimed the first grant to claim the second grant.
  • More information will be available on 12 June.  In the meantime, self-employed people still have until 13 July to apply for the first SEISS grant.  Applications details can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

HMRC’s Time to Pay Service

UC and Redundancy

Other Information

Covid-19 Community Helpline

  • The Covid-19 Community Helpline, delivered by Advice NI, has been in operation since Friday 27 March.
  • Over 18,000 calls have been answered with an answer rate of 95%.
  • The Helpline has dealt with queries from 14,263 clients with 17,752 issues. 
  • 51% of callers were shielding and 49% were non-shielding, and 69% of the queries were food-related.
  • The Helpline number is 0808-802-0020.

Paper on Moving out of Lockdown

  • Public policy forum, Pivotal, is beginning a series of short, evidence–based briefing papers on NI’s social and economic recovery from COVID–19.  Their papers will explore evidence from around the world to inform public debate and assist policy–makers in their decision making.  This first paper examines key learning from other countries about lockdown easing and uses this evidence to suggest policy considerations.  See more here https://www.pivotalppf.org/our-work/publications/4/covid19-in-northern-ireland-moving

Help for Blind and Partially-sighted

TV Licence Update

Guidance for Care Settings