COVID-19 POLICY UPDATE 30 May - 5 June 2020
- 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
- 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
- Job Retention Scheme Update
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Update
- HMRC’s Time to Pay Service
- UC and Redundancy
- 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
- The majority of State Care Monuments, managed by DfC’s Historic Environment Division, have reopened to the public. Read more of the story here https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/re-opening-outdoor-spaces-state-care-monuments
- And the DfC website has a list of the locations that are now open to visit, https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/articles/historic-places-visit
- DfC announced that the Public Record Office (PRONI) is calling for the public to help create an archive of how we lived during the lock down. You can find full information on the ‘Stay Home’ Memories project, and how you can contribute to it, on the PRONI website https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni
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
- The Executive announced plans to allow hotels and other tourist accommodation to re-open from July 20, although this will only be possible if virus transmissions rates continue to decline. A final decision to allow this reopening can only be made nearer the time. Read the full details here https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/news/executive-daily-update-initiatives-deal-coronavirus-03-june-2020
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
- NI Direct has a COVID-19 webpage with up-to-date information on a range of issues relating to the crisis. Visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
- Further advice on NI Direct for businesses can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-businesses-and-employers and at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
- Further advice on NI Direct for workers can be found at
- DfC has a COVID-19 webpage providing the last updates on action they’re taking during the crisis. Visit https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/landing-pages/covid-19-service-updates
- Department of Health daily statistics on COVID-19 are available at www.health-ni.gov.uk
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
- The Department for the Economy established an Engagement Forum to advise the Executive on how best to manage the challenges COVID-19 places on businesses and workers. The Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer produced by the Forum is available here https://www.lra.org.uk/resources/covid-19-working-through-it-together-practical-guide-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
- People showing signs and symptoms of cancer are urged to contact their GP, despite the COVID-19 crisis. More information here http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/early-advice-treatment-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
- The PHA has produced a report examining the key trends and characteristics of COVID-19 to help build an understanding of the virus and its impact. Find out more here https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/coronavirus-monthly-statistical-bulletin
Anti-viral Treatment for COVID-19
- A new innovative drug called Remdesivir which is alleged to shorten recovery time from COVID-19 by about 4 days is currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. Read the details here https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/news/swann-welcomes-remdesivir-treatment-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
- HMRC’s Time to Pay service is now available to support businesses and self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities. Arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. Anyone in need of support can contact HMRC on their helpline at 0800-024-1222. More information at this link https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19
UC and Redundancy
- With approximately 200K local workers on the job retention scheme, fears are growing about a huge job loss spike as the scheme winds down. If this does happen, it will be vital that employees know how to handle the situation where they may receive redundancy and have to claim UC.
- Advice NI has produced a ‘Universal Credit & Redundancy’ briefing paper to assist employees and advisers where a redundancy situation arises. Read the blog here https://www.adviceni.net/blog/advice-ni-produce-‘universal-credit-redundancy-payments’-briefing-paper-fears-grow-about-job-0
- The briefing paper itself can be found here https://www.adviceni.net/sites/default/files/publications/universal-credit-and-redundancy-payments-june-2020.pdf
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
- RNIB NI and Guide Dogs have prepared a COVID-19 advice document for blind and partially sighted people who are offline. The link to the document is https://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/APDF-NI-Covid-Advice-May2020.pdf
TV Licence Update
- In March, the BBC decided to delay the changes to over 75s licence fees until 31 July 2020 due to COVID-19. For those aged 75 or over who hold a free BBC TV licence which expires on 31 May 2020, their licence will last a further two months until 31 July 2020. This will happen automatically. For further information on how to apply for a free TV licence, phone 0300-790-6073 or visit their website https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/for-your-home/aged-74-and-over-aud3?WT.mc_id=r009&x=0
Guidance for Care Settings
- The Patient and Client Council is offering anybody worried about their health and social care during the lock down a Freephone support service. More information is available on their website https://patientclientcouncil.hscni.net/novel-coronavirus/
- The Freephone telephone number is 0800-917-0222 and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org