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Key workers and vulnerable groups: are you making the most of the support available?

Key workers and vulnerable groups: are you making the most of the support available?
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The UK has ground to a halt under lockdown. Without support for key workers and vulnerable groups, it would be a whole lot worse. 

Who are key workers and vulnerable groups? 

Key workers are those essential for public health and safety during the lockdown, and include those working in health and social care, education and childcare, the food chain, key public services and government, utilities, public safety and national security, and transport.

Vulnerable groups are people aged 70 or older and anyone with certain chronic diseases. The NHS has contacted the latter group to inform them of their status and the precautions they should take.

What support is available?

While key workers keep the country functioning, there’s heaps of support available to keep key workers and vulnerable groups functioning as well.

As well as special times for shopping, a multitude of shops and services are offering discounts and offers for key workers. If you’re in the NHS, you can check these pages for national discounts for NHS workers and support available for NHS staff. A Twitter feed has the latest offers for NHS staff.

Age UK (Barnet) has a great list of support for vulnerable older people who are isolated during lockdown. Some is specific to Barnet, but most applies to all vulnerable older people.

Even though schools are closed to most students, children of key workers can continue to attend. See the government guidance.

Food and shopping

To support key workers and vulnerable people and keep them a little safer, many major supermarkets are offering special time-slots when these groups can shop. Check this table or the supermarket’s website for current times.

  NHS Staff Vulnerable Groups
  Times Days Times Days

30 minutes before official opening
(NHS, Police, Fire Service and all groups with a Blue Light card)

Priority access in queues (NHS, Police and Fire Service)


08:00 – 09:00

(NHS and care workers)

Monday, Wednesday and Friday From opening to 09:00 Daily

07:00 – 08:00 and

20:00 – 21:00

(19:00 – 20:00 at Chorley and Kendal)


09:00 – 10:00

(10:00 – 11:00 at
Media City)

(all key workers who have a letter)

Monday to Saturday







08:00 – 09:00


10:00 – 11:00

Monday to Saturday



Iceland Last hour of opening Daily    
M&S First hour of opening  Tuesday and Friday First hour of opening Daily

First hour of opening 

10% off with NHS ID

Monday to Saturday    

07:30 – 08:00

(NHS and social care workers)

Daily First hour of opening Daily
Tesco Browsing hour before checkouts open Sunday 09:00 – 10:00 (except Express stores) Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Waitrose Hard-to-find items are set aside Daily First hour after opening Daily

Stress and mental health

Everyone’s under stress right now, especially key workers and vulnerable groups. If you need extra support, there’s plenty available. Don’t hesitate to reach out and make the most of the support available.

Those of you working for the NHS have free access to popular wellbeing apps including UnmindSleepioDaylight and Silvercloud.

If you’re a key worker and need a bit more support, The Eaves is offering free counselling to NHS staff and key workers. Also, the NHS and the Samaritans have launched a free mental health hotline at 0300 131 7000, available from 7.00am to 11.00pm seven days a week; or text FRONTLINE to 85258. Helpforce has teamed up with other professionals to provide Frontline19, a free mental health support service for all key workers on the front lines.

For vulnerable isolated members of the community, a free support service is available from The Help Hub, and The Silver Line has a dedicated helpline for older people. If you register with Independent Age, its volunteers will call you regularly for a chat. 


Key workers have a reason to be moving around and will be able to make the most of the support available.

Many local councils and lots of train stations are giving free parking permits to key workers; some are even giving free access to buses and trams, and there are heaps of free bike hire schemes around too! There are far too many to list here, so check online to find out whether you’re eligible and how to make the most of the free parking in your area.

If you’re in London, the charging schemes for road users have been suspended.


If you work for the NHS and you’re with Vodafone, you’ve got 30 days of free unlimited mobile data. If you’re registered with Vodafone as an NHS worker, you’ve already got it; otherwise you can register via the MyVodafone app.

Health and fitness

Staying active is always important, especially when you’re under pressure. For NHS staff, the popular fitness app Fiit Premium is free.

Community support

Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK is a national group of volunteers supporting and coordinating local community support groups. Find your local group on Facebook or the Covid Mutual Aid website.

If you have a medical condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, register as an extremely vulnerable person. You’ll be able to ask for support with things like food delivery and essential care.

Physical safety

Too many people are even more vulnerable than usual because of the lockdown. If you’re affected by domestic violence, sexual assault or abuse, you can find support on this government website. If you’re in danger, call 999. But if you can’t talk, then cough or tap the handset to answer questions. On a mobile, if prompted, press 55 to transfer your call to the police. On a landline, if you don’t speak you’ll be connected to a police call handler.


Whether you’re a key worker or part of a vulnerable group, make the most of the support available. That’s what it’s there for!

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