Support and Guidance during COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic

Click here for HBF Community and Integration Activities from Home

Please find below some useful resources and guidance that may be of use to staff and clients of HBF during this time. We will be reviewing this website weekly.

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

The symptoms can be similar to that of a seasonal flu, but the symptoms may present differently in different people, so some people may experience the symptoms more severely than others.

The key symptoms are:

A high temperature/fever- this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).

A new, continuous cough– this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

These symptoms may be accompanied by tiredness or body aches

More information can be found on the NHS Coronavirus Advice Page

Check the NHS 111 Websiteto see if your symptoms indicate COVID-19 (coronavirus):

Please find helpful translated materials here from Doctors of the World.

Doctors and medical care are still available to you during this coronavirus crisis. However, the way you access healthcare is different. It may be more difficult for those who do not have access to the internet, but there are always telephone options if needed.

The most important thing is not to visit your GP practice or hospital in person, unless you have been asked to.

You can watch this YouTube video to help you understand the new systems

If you have concerns or worries about symptoms of coronavirus. Do not go to GP, hospital or pharmacy. Stay at home.

If you have mild symptoms:

  • Stay at home, isolate yourself as much as possible.
  • Take paracetamol (not ibuprofen), drink fluids, rest.
    • There is lots of advice available:

      • The online coronavirus 111 service.
      • The NHS website
      • If you need more help or advice or are still worried and you have access to the internet:

        Use the online coronavirus 111 site will ask for your postcode and take you through some questions to give you the best possible advice depending on the area you live and your symptoms.

        If you need more help and/or you can’t access online services:

        Call your GP:

        • It may be more difficult than normal to get through but keep trying
        • GPs are setting up telephone services as fast as possible
        • There are many telephone or video appointments available every day
        • You'll only be asked to visit the surgery if absolutely necessary. If the GP thinks that you need to be seen physically they will arrange for you to attend in person.
        • It may not be to your usual GP practice, you may be asked to go to a local “coronavirus hub” where you will be seen by a local GP (who may not be your own GP). Take a list of your medications with you and any information you have about your medical history.

        OR Call 111

        This number has been overloaded at times, but again they are working hard to improve the situation so do keep trying if you are not able to use the online service.

        Babies and children

        Call 111 for advice if you're worried about a baby or child. If they seem very unwell, are getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call 999. Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

        Interpreter services

        GP and 111 services should be able to access telephone interpreters. However, this can sometimes be difficult – services are trying new technology very quickly and in some cases they may struggle to get you a telephone interpreter. If you do have someone safe to interpret for you you may need to use them.

        Help from Helen Bamber Foundation

        If you have followed all this advice and are still struggling to access healthcare please call us at HBF and let us know what the problem is. We will do our best to help. But please remember that we are not an emergency service and it may take us some time to get back to you.

If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus – the advice is similar to that given above.

  • Do not go to your GP or hospital
  • If you have access to the internet, try online services first. Note that GP online appointment booking may not be available at the moment.
  • For health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
  • For urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service
  • Call your GP or the 111 service if you can’t get help online
  • You are likely to be offered a phone or video appointment
  • For life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance

Repeat prescriptions

If you have a repeat prescription that you normally request at your GP surgery or pharmacy, you can do this online. To do this, you'll need to register to use online services. Find out how to start using online services.

Urgent medical help

Do not go to places like walk-in centres, urgent treatment centres or hospitals. Try the methods above to contact healthcare first but you can use 999 if it is a life- threatening situation.

Interpreter services

GP and 111 services should be able to access telephone interpreters. However, this can sometimes be difficult – services are trying new technology very quickly and in some cases they may struggle to get you a telephone interpreter. If you do have someone safe to interpret for you you may need to use them.

Help from Helen Bamber Foundation

If you have followed all this advice and are still struggling to access healthcare please call us at HBF and let us know what the problem is. We will do our best to help. But please remember that we are not an emergency service and it may take us some time to get back to you.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19/coronavirus, you'll need to stay at home for 7 days.

  • If you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms. This is to make sure that you do not develop the symptoms.

  • If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

The NHS advice about staying at home is here:

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading. It is particularly important for people who:

  • are 70 or over

  • have a long-term condition

  • are pregnant

  • have a weakened immune system

Top Tips


  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds (see this website for advice on how to wash your hands thoroughly:

  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work

  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of coronavirus

  • only travel on public transport if you need to

  • work from home, if you can

  • avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas

  • avoid events with large groups of people


  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

  • do not have visitors to your home, including friends and family

See this website for the World Health Organisation’s recommendations:

In the week beginning 12th June 2020, the government set out guidelines for continuing to limit your contact with others. From 15th June you are able to:

  • Go to work, where you cannot work from home.

  • Go to shops.

  • Form an exclusive 'support bubble' with one other household if you live alone or are a single parent. And spend time in this one chosen household.

  • Leave your house for any medical need, to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

  • Exercise outside as often as you wish and you can also sit and rest outside – this can be alone, with members of your household, or with a group of up to six other people from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times.

  • No more than six people can meet in a public place, unless you are only with members of your own household or support bubble.

  • You must not visit other people’s houses (except in your bubble) or socialise outside your home. All social venues are closed and all social celebrations (e.g. Weddings, christenings) are still banned.

  • Primary schools are open for children in reception, year 1 and year 6.

  • The above measures can be enforced by police and fines may be issues if people are found to be violating these conditions.

They also issued guidance for vulnerable groups who should be particularly focused on reducing social contact:

The government has also published guidance on staying safe outside your home and on social distancing rules.

Further advice will be issued, so make sure you follow up-to-date guidance about any restrictions on travel or movement.

We are very aware that reducing social contact and activity is going to make some people struggle without access to the face-to-face support they are used to.

If you are struggling, please call us at HBF during HBF opening hours (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday) on 0203 058 2020.

Outside of these hours, if you are feeling suicidal and you do not think you can keep yourself safe, contact your local crisis team for urgent assistance.

Please note that the NHS is not currently recommending that people attend Accident and Emergency departments if they are in mental health crisis, due to the overcrowding caused by cases of COVID-19 and the risks to people attending that they may too catch the virus. Click here to view contact details for other crisis services you can contact.

You could also call the Samaritans on 116 123. They are available to talk on the phone 24 hours a day, no matter what the problem. You can also contact them by email (email (at but they may take longer to get back to you. Their website is:

At the moment we are following government guidance and all our staff are currently working from home. We are still here to help you and you can call us on the normal office number to speak to us. We will let you know as soon as we are told we can re-open the office, but for now the office will remain closed for the foreseeable future, until the government advises it is safe for people to travel in London as usual.

The situation is changing very quickly and we do not currently know what will happen with court closure. We recommend that you stay in touch with your legal representative by phone and/or email to understand the current situation. We will be in touch if any issues affect your case directly.

Lots of people realise that the situation with COVID-19/coronavirus is an emergency, and as a result, many people are doing everything they can to help people in their local community who might need extra support. For example, people might help their neighbours with shopping, walking the dog or fetching medication if they are not able to leave the house.

A helpful website has been set up to help people in need access support:

This website lists ‘grassroots’ community organisations that have been set up to help people in their neighbourhood affected by COVID-19/coronavirus. However, it is important for us to say that these organisations are not ‘official’ and they are mostly made up of normal people who want to help their neighbours with practical problems. They will not be able to help you with issues such as your mental health, so make sure you contact HBF or your local mental health team for any support with this.

Unfortunately, even in an emergency situation like this one, some people will be looking to take advantage of people in difficult situations. Please think carefully before accepting help from someone who approaches you at home if you didn’t specifically ask them to come.

Here are some things to consider when accepting help.

  • Unless it is someone you already know well (e.g. a neighbour you have spoken to before), only accept help from one of the ‘covid mutual aid’ support groups (through the link above), or through another established organisation.

  • If the person is behaving suspiciously or you are in any doubt at all, take their contact details and call someone at HBF for advice.

  • If you are put in touch with a covid support network, someone will hopefully help you with anything practical you need, such as fetching food or medication from the shops if you are having to self-isolate. You will still need to pay for any groceries etc, but tell the person exactly what you want (e.g. what brand/size of packet) and tell them that you are on a limited income, so they do not buy you a more expensive brand if you cannot afford this.

  • Take down the contact details of the person who comes to see you and do a 'test call' to make sure their number is correct.

  • If you are handing over any money to the person and you haven't met them before, take a photo of their ID so you know that they are who they say they are. If you explain that HBF have told you to take this precaution for your own safety, most people will understand and will not be offended.

The team at HBF are still here to support you, so please call us if you feel things are getting worse for you. Our therapy team will be here to listen and help you as much as we can. We know this is such a difficult time for everyone, and we are aware that our clients will be particularly affected by recommendations that people avoid social contact.

Lots of people are feeling very anxious about how this situation is developing and may be worried about friends and family in other parts of the world. This is completely understandable, but try not to let your worry become overwhelming. Here are some top tips to care for your mental health at this time:

  • Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. Try to focus on reading factual reports from reputable sources, e.g. the government or NHS websites, in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours.

  • If you notice you are spending many hours a day worrying, try to limit the time you spend worrying to just one set time in the day (e.g. 9.00-9.30am every day). Outside of these times, write down your worries on a piece of paper and then focus on them during your next allocated ‘worry time’. This will mean you can focus on more helpful activities at other times of the day.

  • Seek support from friends or HBF if you need it. We are still here for you.

  • Remind yourself that this situation won’t last forever.

  • Engage in activities that are meaningful and enjoyable (see suggestions below).

  • Protect yourself and be supportive to others. This situation is incredibly difficult for everyone and we all need to support each other to keep going during these hard times. Focus on the fact that people are coming together to help each other more than ever before and this gives you an opportunity to get to know more people in your community. If and when you feel well enough (and it is safe for you to do so), see if you can also get involved in helping your housemates, neighbours and wider community. Being someone who helps others in difficult circumstances can be as helpful to you as the helper as the person you are helping.

See below some resources that we hope might be helpful for people self-isolating, or reducing social contact.

Click here for symptom management videos to practice at home.

If of interest, here is some formal guidance from the World Health Organisation:

Staying at home and reducing social contact that we are used to can be really hard.

Remember that whilst things are uncertain at the moment, this situation will not last forever. If you are reducing your social contact, this is the right thing to do, no matter how hard. Acknowledge to yourself how difficult the situation is at the moment, but try to take care of yourself and find ways to cope with it.

Below are some examples of things that you might find helpful, but get creative and find what works for you. These websites and documents were not produced by HBF, but are just resources that are already available that we think might be helpful for you!

Tips for taking care of your physical and mental health wellbeing:

Covibook is a resource for under 7s which has been translated to several languages. It is very simple and can be helpful if you have small children asking about the virus. It gives the children an opportunity to talk about how they are feeling about it.

It can be found here.

For more information, see the Refugee Council Covid-19 Signposting Project.