08:07, April 14 231 0 theguardian.com

2020-04-14 08:07:04
UK coronavirus rules relaxed for people with autism and learning disabilities

People with learning disabilities or autism can leave the house for exercise more than once a day and can travel outside of their local area under current lockdown measures, the government has said.

The guidance, which had previously stated that non-essential workers should only leave their homes once a day for exercise or to shop for basic necessities, was amended on Wednesday.

Quick guide

How you can help US food banks in the Covid-19 pandemic

How to help

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 40 million Americans relied on food banks to get enough to eat. Now, the demand for emergency food aid is growing exponentially as millions of people lose their jobs. 

As this demand grows, food banks are receiving far fewer donations from retailers as people are buying in bulk, so stocks are low. This means food banks must buy more supplies to make sure they have enough to feed every hungry American asking for help.

Donate money or supplies

The Feeding America network of 200 food banks secures and distributes 4.3 billion meals each year through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. They help vulnerable communities including the elderly and disabled, as well as providing free nutritional lunches for school children from low-income families.

If you want to help, find your local food bank, and go to their website to donate. You can also donate to Feeding America’s Covid-19 response fund.

Volunteers

Food banks rely on volunteers, and Feeding America and food pantries across the US urgently need help as most regular volunteers are senior citizens who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. If you are interested in becoming a new volunteer, use Feeding America’s tool to find your local food bank or pantry but please get in touch with them first before showing up. Remember, if you’re worried about your own health or the risk to a family member, “stay home” is the advice.

Social media

Feeding America also says you can help in small ways like following your local food bank on social media and sharing what they are doing online, or by becoming an advocate for the fight to end hunger in America.

The updated advice reads: “If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health – including if that involves travel beyond your local area – then you can do so.

“This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day – ideally in line with a care plan agreed with a medical professional.”

Although those with autism and mental health conditions are advised to limit their travel, and stay as close to their local area as possible, carers and support workers who do not live in their household can accompany them.

The change comes after lawyers from Bindmans LLP and 39 Essex Chambers were asked for help by two families with children on the autistic spectrum.

Bindmans said one of the children, whose conditions mean it was necessary for them to leave the house more than once a day for their wellbeing, was deliberately taken to a quiet location outside of their local area because of their particular needs.

The firms argued that the “inflexible policy”, which also says people should stay two metres apart from anyone outside of their household, disproportionately impacted those with certain health conditions and was “therefore unlawful and discriminatory”.

After the amendment was made to the guidance, one of the affected families said they were “delighted” they could support their son’s needs “without breaking the rules”.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said the most important action the public could take during the pandemic was to stay home to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

But, it added: “We understand that this will be more difficult for some, that is why we clarified the guidance regarding the needs of those with specific health conditions such as learning disabilities or autism.”

Coronavirus and volunteering: how can I help in the UK?

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