Contingency plans are lacking say camapigners, leading many fearing to venture outdoors
Thousands of carers fear coronavirus could render them unable to support their loved ones and are desperately calling on the Scottish Government for help.
Prominent campaigners and care groups have called for clarity on contingency plans for Scotland’s estimated 800,000 carers amidst a potential pandemic.
The virus, which saw its first confirmed Scottish case in Tayside this week, is an unknown quantity and carers fear they could end up isolated as they try to avoid catching it.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said "escalation plans" for the NHS are being examined to see how extra capacity can be provided to cope with those who have the most severe symptoms.
However, carers hit out saying they have been ignored in any contingency plans.
Many carers are already too scared to venture outdoors in fear of catching the virus and passing it on to those for whom they care.
Prominent campaigner Lynn Williams said she had yet to see an official response to the potential spread of coronavirus which takes account of the fact that many thousands of unpaid carers are plugging significant gaps in care and support services.
“There just isn’t any give in social care or a speediness of response to crisis situations in the current set up,” she told TFN.
“Nor are there the very specialist services required by families dealing with complex health needs. How can local systems pick up the many thousands of hours of unpaid care provided by families? What happens if they get sick, have to self-isolate? Who looks after loved ones with medically complex needs?”
Dr Catherine Calderwood, the chief medical officer for Scotland, said there is good evidence that the country has been successful in containing the virus so far and she would not expect the peak of cases, where "large numbers" occur, for another two to three months.
Dan Graves, a carer and organiser of Ayrshire Caring Forum, said carers felt ignored.
“It’s important that the powers that be implement some kind of plan at least to make the many struggling carers confident that support is there should they need it. It seems, so far at least, we carers have been ignored.”
Paul Traynor, policy and external affairs manager at Carers Trust Scotland, said: “Situations such as the ability for carers to undertake their usual level of care, collect medication and the cared for person being unable to receive services may intensify should people have to self-isolate. Young carers may face additional challenges and a rise in their caring role should schools close or as a result of other support services being temporarily unavailable.
"Some carers who have an Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement in place may already have an emergency plan, which could be implemented if the carer becomes affected by coronavirus.
“However we need to consider that many carers may not have such plans in place. Situations will vary and the response to these therefore needs to be personalised to individual circumstances where this is possible.”
The Scottish Government has been asked to comment.