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Helping your neighbours, friends and family

During this challenging time, it’s really important that we take care of ourselves and others. 

Those who are well and not at risk can provide essential support for their family, friends and neighbours who cannot leave the house.

And that’s the case no matter where you live - from a flat in a city to a croft on an island.

The information below explains how you can provide essential support safely.

Only help if you are well

Please follow advice on nhsinform.scot/coronavirus to ensure it is safe for you to help. 

People who may be in need of help

  • Neighbours, friends or family who have to stay at home because they have symptoms of coronavirus
  • Neighbours, friends or family who have been asked to self isolate under the Test and Protect programme
  • Neighbours, friends or family who are shielding

Providing practical help

There are simple ways you can help your neighbours, without putting yourself or them at risk, if they cannot leave the house: 

  • You could do some food shopping for them when you are doing your own.
  • You could place an online shopping order for them or talk them through the process over the phone.  If friends or family can go to the shop to pick up food for you, a voucher scheme is run by most supermarkets. If friends and family aren’t able to help, and you can’t get access to an online delivery slot from your local supermarket, there are a range of offers from retailers that might be able to support you. Find out more about the range of support available in our guidance.  
  • Volunteer Scotland host advice for volunteers on handling money
  • You could pick up their prescriptions or arrange a pharmacy delivery where available. (If you are helping with prescriptions, you should remind people that they must only order the medication they need in their usual quantities; nobody should be stockpiling.)
  • You could support with general errands such as posting letters or putting the bins out.

How to do this safely

  • You should not physically visit people who are self-isolating as this would put you at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others. This means you shouldn’t enter their house or go on a car journey with them.
  • Keep a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you are helping if you have to see them e.g. on a doorstep.
  • Leave any shopping or other messages on the doorstep, but make sure that they have been collected before leaving.
  • Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not place yourself in compromising positions where you may feel unsafe e.g. helping late at night.
  • Be aware that if you are helping someone you don’t know personally, they may not want to share personal details with you - like phone numbers.
  • You should also warn those you are helping not to let strangers into their home – and not to give strangers money under any circumstances.

The Scottish Community Development Centre, in partnership with Public Health Scotland, has created Supporting Communities Safely, a website with detailed advice on how you can help your community safely and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 

Providing emotional support

Self-isolation can be a really lonely time. However, Government advice is available to protect the most vulnerable in our society. We can help each other by staying in touch – whether neighbours or friends or family. You can do this from your own home:

  • With regular calls, text messages and contact via social media.
  • By talking people through the setup for video calls so they can connect with their friends and family remotely.
  • Encourage people to stay mentally and physically active with pursuits like cooking, reading, gardening, online learning or watching films.
  • Swap suggestions about how to keep busy. If people are well enough, encourage them to do some light exercise and keep active around the home, perhaps by using an online exercise class.  
  • It’s easy to become worried by online information, some of which may be deliberately designed to mislead people. Help your community by sharing trusted information:

Trusted sources of information.

Information on coronavirus from reputable sources.

NHS Inform

Scottish Government

Mind

What should I do if I’m worried about someone’s health?

If the health of anyone you are in touch with is a cause for concern, encourage them to call their GP practice or NHS24 on 111 if their GP is closed.

Similarly, if they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse or their symptoms do not get better after 7 days, please call NHS24 on 111.

Call 999 immediately if you believe someone’s life is at risk.

What should I do if I have to stay at home and need help?

Please refer to guidance on staying at home here.

If you need access to essential food and medicine but can’t get help from family, friends or neighbours there is a National Assistance Helpline you can contact. Further information about the National Assistance Helpline as well as support for different groups of people can be found at the Additional support page.

If someone you don’t know calls at your home, always ask for valid ID and only provide information on a need-to-know basis. Do not share financial details like credit/debit card numbers.

Do not feel pressured into providing information. If you have doubts about those who are approaching you, and are concerned, it is advised that you don’t engage. Report suspicious behaviour to the police.

Remember that genuine volunteers have been instructed not to enter your home and should all have documentation proving their status. 

Community Resilience Groups

There are a large number of local community groups you can join that have already started to rally local support. Look out for these on Facebook and in local community channels.

If you would like to set up a new community resilience group, we have guidance available. These groups provide great help not only during the current challenges, but also in future during bad weather or other disruption.