Coronavirus: Vulnerable Consumers
Additional advice for vulnerable consumers
The information on this page was last updated on 18 January 2021.
There are numerous food banks operating across Northern Ireland.
We are monitoring food banks in Northern Ireland and have published the most up-to-date information in the following link:
Many of these are operated by The Trussell Trust. Their website contains further information on food banks, ways to get involved, benefits, and has an interactive map to point you in the direction of the food banks they operate.
There is also additional information about food banks in our Advice Directory.
Deliveries while self-isolating
Use the drop-down menus below to find out more about food deliveries.
Asda, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have now confirmed they will allocate a proportion of online delivery slots to this group who need it most. You must register your interest at www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/priority-online-food-delivery.
- InYourArea, in collaboration with Belfast Live, is offering support to small businesses across the country by launching a tool to see who is offering delivery in each postcode area. See www.belfastlive.co.uk for more details.
- Who is delivering? Northern Ireland is a Facebook page that is sharing information on businesses in Northern Ireland that are delivering fresh food, groceries and pre-made meals. Have a check to see what local businesses near you are able to deliver food to your door. There is an interactive map available by visiting Who is Delivering? Northern Ireland (arcgis.com).
- DATS operated by Disability Action are offering a collection and delivery service for food and medicines for people living in Belfast, Bangor, Carrick, Holywood, Newtownabbey and Newtownards). You don't have to be a DATS member to use this service. More details of the service is available at www.disabilityaction.org/news
- Rural Community Transport Partnerships are also offering pick-up and delivery services for food and medication for both members and non-members. See the NI Direct website for the contact details for all the Rural Community Transport Partnerships see the NI Direct website www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Over 200 Spar, Eurospar and Vivo stores are now offering home delivery to help those who are unable to get access to groceries. A list of the stores offering this service is available at www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk.
Pension Credit check
Do not to miss out on claiming Pension Credit you may be entitled to.
Check your eligibility for Pension Credit, using the Pension Credit Calculator or by ringing the Pension Centre on 0800 587 0892.
Having savings, a pension or owning a home are not automatic barriers to receiving the benefit and even a small award of Pension Credit can provide access to other services such as dental & optical treatment.
Post Office Card Account
If you are concerned about going into your post office you can nominate someone to use your card. You will need to complete a form. More information is available at www.postoffice.co.uk/post-office-card-account.
Accessible Travel NI
Imtac runs a website called Accessible Travel NI, which lists information about accessible travel and transport in Northern Ireland. During the current COVID-19 crisis, the site also provides updates about changes to transport and travel.
You can visit the website on www.accessibletravelni.org
Most Telecoms providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out. More information is available at www.gov.uk/government/news.
COVID-19 Community Helpline
Department for Communities has set up a freephone helpline to give advice and information about support for people in vulnerable groups in Northern Ireland.
Phone: 0808 802 0020 from 9am to 5pm (Monday to Friday).
Text: ACTION to 81025
Links to useful websites
Each of the 11 councils are playing a key role in supporting their communities, including assisting with the distribution of food boxes to people having problems accessing basic supplies. More details are available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/local-councils-in-northern-ireland.
Also, be sure to contact your local politician if you have any queries or concerns. Some local politicians have been using their social media accounts to share information for vulnerable consumers with local and community based solutions.
- Antrim and Newtownabbey: Its website has a list of community support services that can help with shopping and medicine collections.
- Ards and North Down: An interactive map on its website shows which local shops are offering delivery here (the information can also be viewed as a directory); the council also has two community support teams in place and an outreach programme for people who are potentially isolated and vulnerable - the best way to be referred to one of those teams is to contact the Department of Community helpline on 0808 802 0020.
- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon: A community hub on its website lists community support services and details on how to access help, including food and delivery services; there's also a list of local shops offering delivery and collection services at www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk
- Belfast City: Have advised residents to follow their social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook to find organisations offering support; Community NI also has a list of partners providing community support in the Belfast area.
- Causeway Coast and Glens: A directory of community support is on their website - these organisations can help assist with food and prescription delivery, fuel and social contact; the council also has set up a coordination hub, which aims to ensure the most vulnerable are connected to support services - call the Department of Communities helpline on 0808 802 0020 for more.
- Derry City and Strabane: A list of community and charity groups are linked on its website; it's also making a £50,000 fund available to community groups providing services in the local area; has also launched a waste support helpline, for anyone experiencing a build up of household waste - you can call the helpline on 028 7137 6590, 9-5 Monday to Friday.
- Fermanagh and Omagh: Its website has a list of organisations that can offer support with home deliveries, advice, telephone calls to combat isolation and other services.
- Lisburn and Castlereagh: Information on local businesses running delivery services is here on their website.
- Mid and East Antrim: A list of businesses offering home delivery across Carrickfergus, Larne and Ballymena can be found on their website, along with their times of delivery; there is also an interactive map, which residents can move around and use to find shops in their area offering delivery.
- Mid-Ulster: The council has set up an emergency community support fund to give financial backing to groups providing support in the community with deliveries; it also has a list of local businesses that deliver on its website.
- Newry, Mourne and Down: The council has set up a community coordination hub to help the areas' more vulnerable residents - the group will be distributing food parcels on behalf of the Department of Communities, you can contact the hub via the main helpline 0808 802 0020.
Families, Children and Young People
Progress has been made towards schools returning to normal, with the first pupils going back on August 24. There are plans to run summer schemes for children with special educational needs and youth service summer programmes for the children of some key workers.
A summer food scheme will be established for those children who normally receive free school meals during term time.
And for the 95,000 people across Northern Ireland who received shielding letters, they are being informed that it is no longer necessary to follow that advice from the end of July and that instead, they should follow the same guidance as those considered vulnerable. Those who are currently shielding will received further communication and advice next week.
The Executive has also agreed to publish a Childcare Sector Recovery Plan, to restore the sector to pre-COVID-19 levels as quickly and safely as possible to enable working parents to return to their places of employment.
This stepped plan includes childminders being able to provide childcare to four families in their homes at the one time from June 29 with the expectation that childminders will be working to full capacity from September.
[Source: NI Executive, 18 June 2020]
Supporting Communities convenes the Housing Community Network over the 13 geographical Housing Executive Areas in Northern Ireland and has created a page for each of these areas.
The pages signpost members to localised information and resources they can use to respond to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
Utility Care Registers
Critical Care Registers
Northern Ireland Electricity Networks (NIE Networks) and NI Water operate a Critical Care Register where they keep details of consumers who rely on electrical equipment or on a water supply for their day to day care. In the case of electricity customers this includes medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, patient vital signs monitoring systems and home dialysis. NI Water's critical care register is for consumers with serious medical conditions.
Adding your details to this register will allow NI Water and NIE Networks to prioritise your contact details if your supply goes off.
For more information, including how to sign up visit The Consumer Council webpage.
Customer Care Registers
All electricity and gas suppliers in Northern Ireland must keep a Customer Care Register with the details and special needs of customers who are of pensionable age, disabled (by virtue of being blind, partially sighted, deaf or hearing impaired) or chronically sick. Suppliers can provide free assistance and services to customers who register their details with them.
For more information, including care features by companies visit The Consumer Council consumer rights and advice webpage.
Staying safe from scams
Advice for blind and partially sighted people
BAME-led Community Organisations
Migrant Centre NI has been very concerned that many small BAME projects working with diverse communities across Northern Ireland are facing risk of closure due to financial pressures following the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have made grants available to support BAME-led community organisations to deliver services at this challenging time.
All details including Guidance Notes and Application Form are available on their website: http://migrantcentreni.org/grants/
NHS Translation Service
The NHS COVID-19 NI 111 helpline operates a service called ‘Language Line’. You make the operator aware that you need a translator and for which language. The operator then transfers you to a ’Language Line’ interpreter who will interpret for you.
The Helplines NI website includes details of UK and NI helplines that have been setup in response to coronavirus. To date, over 20 new helplines covering a range of topics (e.g. community helpline, befriending, government grants, pregnancy) have been established specifically in response to coronavirus.
Find out more here: www.helplinesni.com
Pharmacies and chemists, including non-dispensing pharmacies, currently remain open.
Boots has produced a FAQ regarding the coronavirus, prescription deliveries and collecting prescriptions for other people.
Action on Hearing Loss NI
Action on Hearing Loss is currently unable to offer face-to-face services. This includes their Information Service, Hearing Aid Support Service, Tinnitus Support Service and Employment Service. They will still continue to support people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus via phone, email and text and they are currently exploring options for video calls. They can also post out hearing aid batteries where possible. They have updated the contact details for all their services on their website so you know who to contact for support.
Health and Social Care Remote Sign Language Interpreting Service
A free remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in Northern Ireland has been introduced to provide the Deaf community with access to:
- NHS111 (Northern Ireland COVID-19 advice line) and
- All health and social care services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To contact NHS111, visit: www.interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111ni
To contact all other Health and Social Care services including your local GP, visit: www.interpreternow.co.uk/hscni
Visit our 'True Cost' webpage for helpful information about where to go to for help.
A list of advice agencies that may be able to help you if you are worried about debt is available at www.consumercouncil.org.uk/policy-research
Christians Against Poverty's helpline, 0800 328 0006, remains open during these difficult times. If you need assistance please call this number and they can assist you finding the help you need. Their existing clients can also contact them on the usual number 01274 761999.
- East Belfast EBCDA helpline - 07783631110 or 07783631114
- South Belfast helpline - 07394 569 155
- Greater Shankill Community Support Helpline - 07925612870
- North Belfast Advice Partnership & Food Bank - 02890391225
- Rural Support Helpline - 0800 138 1678
- Mid Ulster Women’s Aid - 028 8676 9300
Carer ID Card - Priority Shopping Hours
An ID card to support carers in Northern Ireland, similar to IDs for healthcare workers, is now available. Carers will be able to show their ID in stores to get access to priority shopping hours.
Carer ID cards are issued by the Health Trusts. Carers who are known to their local Trust and are in receipt of services will receive an ID card – there is no need to apply for a card.
Young carers will be contacted by either Barnardos or Action for Children depending on the Trust area they live in.
Please contact your Trust Carer co-ordinator, Barnardos or Action for Children if you have not received a card before 22 June 2020. Contact details below.
Young Carers in Northern Ireland
Action for Children
Telephone: 028 9046 0500
Contact Dougie Tyler
Telephone Carer Hub: 028 2766 1210
Telephone Carer Service: 028 9504 6702
Telephone: 028 3756 6284
Southern Sector (Fermanagh/Omagh/Castlederg)
Telephone: 028 6634 4163
Northern Sector (Strabane/L’Derry/Limavady)
Telephone: 028 7135 5023
South Eastern Trust
Telephone: 028 4372 1807