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Online food shopping for families with disabled children

Friday 24th April 2020


Our helpline is getting many calls about the difficulty of getting online food deliveries.

While shelves inside the supermarkets are now well stocked, it is proving difficult for families with disabled children, even those who are supposed to be shielding, to secure delivery slots.

Here is the information and advice we have about this. We will update when we hear more.

Online shopping delivery slots

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury's are using the government's vulnerable list to prioritise its online food deliveries. We are aware there have been issues with this system.

If you have received a shielding letter you should register for support via the government vulnerable list.

See the government's list of who it considers vulnerable. Remember, if you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, you are also eligible for extra support.

We do understand that many conditions have been left off the list, and we are working with other charities to try to address this with the government.

We have heard anecdotally that some delivery slots of the major supermarkets are made available very early in the morning.

Mutual aid schemes

For those struggling to get an online delivery slot and unable to get out of the house for shopping, the following websites could be helpful.

Covid Mutual Aid includes an interactive map with links to local mutual aid groups who may be able to arrange a volunteer to help with shopping. And Local Helpers looks to provide help with shopping in local areas.

WellChild have just launched their Corona Virus Direct Response Scheme to help families with access to food delivery and prescription collection.

Local authorities are providing people on the extremely vulnerable list with food boxes which includes basic items. You should contact your council directly to ask about this.

Shopping for food in store

For those families who can get to a shop, there are dedicated shopping hours for disabled people, their carers and the elderly. These vary from supermarket to supermarket.

There is a very handy table on the Which? website, which details all the priority slots which families with disabled children could make use of. It is always worth checking with your local supermarket in case local stores policies vary.

Supermarkets say that if possible do not take children into stores, but if you are a single parent and have no alternative you can shop with your child.

Asda this week announced a Volunteer Shopping Card to help people self-isolating. Customers can order a shopping card online and top it up with the amount they want to spend on shopping. They can then email or give the card to a family member, friend or volunteer to pay for their shopping without having to hand over money.

Free school meal support

The Department for Education has set up a National Voucher Scheme for families of pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

The scheme provides supermarket vouchers via the Edenred online portal. Aldi recently signed up to the school meal voucher scheme, so the full list of supermarkets now participating are:

  • Morrisons.
  • Tesco.
  • Sainsbury's.
  • Asda.
  • Waitrose.
  • M&S.
  • Aldi.

Many schools have made their own arrangements, providing meals or food parcels. As a result parents whose children are entitled to free school meals are experiencing different help.

If the school arrangements aren't working for a family, parents can contact the school directly to discuss options available to them.

Parent carer forums working to address lockdown concerns of families with disabled children

Some parent carer forums, including Gloucestershire Parent Carer Forum, are working on guidance to support families with supermarket shopping.

They have been told of cases of a parent and child being refused entry into a supermarket, despite the child wearing a sunflower lanyard. This is very problematic for single parent families. The forum has been working with the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group to produce a letter which can be shared with supermarkets to prove their child has additional needs. The letter can be requested from the Family Information Service.