Charities urge supermarkets to prioritise support for ‘extremely vulnerable’ people

Charities representing vulnerable people have written to supermarkets urging them to support those who are unable to leave their home during the coronavirus crisis.

The charities – Blood Cancer UK, British Lung Foundation, Asthma UK, Kidney Care UK, PKD Charity, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – have written to six supermarkets outlining six criteria they want fulfilled.

The charities have heard that some people who are shielding, and their families, are finding it difficult to access online delivery slots.

In the letter to the bosses at Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Asda and John Lewis Partnership, the charities wrote: “As you know, across the UK there are more than 1.5 million people who are shielding, and so are unable to leave their home for at least 12 weeks.

“Many of the people who live with them will also be shielding to help protect them. Given that they are unable to leave their home, it is vital they can access food deliveries.”

The charities said they have developed a list of six criteria they say it is important for all supermarkets to meet if they are to support people in the “extremely vulnerable” category.

They said people who are shielding, and therefore in the “extremely vulnerable” category, should be given the single highest priority, even if they are not an existing customer.

They have urged the supermarkets to make enough priority slots available to make sure everyone in the “extremely vulnerable” category can get a weekly delivery.

The charities are asking the supermarkets to prominently display a button on their website for vulnerable people and their families to easily find out how to get slots.

The charities are also calling on supermarkets to have a phone line for people in the extremely vulnerable category to sort out issues, with enough staff to enable people to get through within 20 minutes.

They say those answering phones should have access to people who can make decisions about who is eligible.

The charities are asking supermarkets to ensure that all the above applies to those living with someone shielding as well as the person themselves.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “People are telling us that things are improving and slots are being made available, but there are some people who are very high risk who are still struggling to order food online.

“This gives them added stress at an already difficult time, as going out to the supermarket could put their health at risk.”

Paul Bristow, chief executive of Kidney Care UK, said: “There are around 65,000 people on dialysis or who have had a kidney transplant in the UK right now who are extremely vulnerable with an increased risk of a severe reaction to Covid-19.

“Despite this, many have still not received a letter giving them the protection of being shielded, and its associated support of priority access to food deliveries.

“We continue to receive calls on a daily basis from anxious patients, too scared to go out for food but who also cannot get a priority slot for home delivery.

“No vulnerable group should be forced to choose between their safety and the need to access essential shopping and this needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

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