COVID-19: Shopping for essentials for the most vulnerable

In these uncertain times, when it is tricky enough for the average person to shop for essentials, it proves particularly difficult to source basic essentials for our vulnerable clients.

Over the last couple of weeks, members of Shoosmiths Court of Protection team who support our  professional Deputies for vulnerable clients, have been compiling some key hints and tips to best help those who might be self-isolating, high-risk, have accessibility issues, or a variety of other reasons that means they can’t get out to the shops themselves.

All the information that follows was correct as at 01 April 2020. We will look to update on a regular basis.

Elderly and vulnerable people as well as carers and NHS workers who can get out may benefit from the following special rules for different stores.  
For the elderly/vulnerable:

  • Co-op: access from 8am-9am on Saturdays and 10am-11am on Sundays – this includes vulnerable customers and those who care for them.
  • Iceland: the first two hours of shopping every Wednesday morning generally but this is subject to store manager discretion – best to check your local store.
  • M&S: the first hour of trading every Monday and Thursday.
  • Sainsbury’s: 8am-9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Tesco: ‘prioritised’ shopping between 9am and 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Waitrose: the first hour of opening every day.

For NHS/Emergency workers:

  • Aldi: every Sunday, 30 mins prior to store opening (i.e. from 9.30am-10am). They are also generally trying to prioritise entry to NHS workers during other hours – always bring ID.
  • Asda: NHS workers have ‘priority’ in store between 8am-9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Co-op: 8am-9am on Saturdays and 10am-11am on Sundays.
  • Iceland: the last hour of trade everyday (and the first hour from 7am in warehouse stores).
  • M&S: the first hour of trading every Tuesday and Friday.
  • Morrisons: from 7am-8am Monday-Saturday.
  • Sainsbury’s: 7.30am-8am (before opening) from Monday to Saturday.
  • Tesco: the first hour before checkouts open every Sunday.
  • Waitrose: setting aside hard-to-find and essential items for NHS staff and giving priority checkout service so NHS workers are processed more efficiently.

For vulnerable people who can’t get out at all

Much of the difficulties we’ve been experiencing concern vulnerable clients who can’t get out at all. This might be for practical reasons, but also many of our clients fall into the category of people who have been advised to isolate for 12 weeks at least. If these people are also isolating with family and carers, it is equally important that those sharing their home limit their exposure to the virus too.

For these people, online deliveries would be ideal but trying to find a delivery slot in the next three weeks is nigh on impossible.

We have compiled a list of the most recent availability/wait updates for the key online suppliers (please note many of these issues will vary based on your location in the UK).  This information correct as at 01 April 2020.

  • Asda: only booking deliveries 2 weeks in advance but these are currently completely booked up. It is also worth noting that even when ordered weeks in advance, deliveries are only packed the day they are being sent, so often many fresh essentials (e.g. meat, eggs, bread, milk) have already sold out before orders are packed.
  • Co-op: has recently started offering home delivery but as of our most recent check, their delivery section of their website is completely down.
  • Iceland: now only offering deliveries to state pension age or vulnerable/self-isolating customers. Many areas are still completely booked up but there are places that have some limited availability as soon as the next day.
  • M&S: has partnered with Deliveroo and are now offering essentials available to order in this way from local M&S shops in BP garages. It will depend on your location, but you can order things like milk, bread, butter, ready meals and tea/coffee etc. All products are ordered through the Deliveroo app, not M&S directly.
  • Morrisons: currently all delivery slots are booked.
  • Sainsbury’s: currently all delivery slots are booked but if you call 0800 953 4988 you can register as a vulnerable customer and be prioritised for delivery slots on a weekly basis. It helps if you have previously ordered from Sainsbury’s or have a nectar card number, otherwise you have to speak to customer services which is currently extremely difficult to get through to. If you fall into the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category, you can register with the government and Sainsbury’s will automatically get in touch with you. See below for more information on this.
  • Tesco: there are currently no delivery slots available. Tesco are encouraging anyone who can Click & Collect or shop in store to do so to free up delivery slots for the elderly or vulnerable but so far slots are still completely booked.
  • Waitrose/Ocado: currently setting aside the first quarter of their online delivery slots for the elderly and vulnerable. They are only doing this by reference to the information they have on existing customers, however, or by non-customers registering with the government as ‘extremely vulnerable’.

Who gets priority?

Those struggling to obtain online deliveries but who meet any of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ criteria listed should register under the government scheme here.

An individual who meets any of the following criteria is considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ by the government and they can register themselves or someone can register them on their behalf to be contacted for special assistance given their vulnerability. We understand the assistance to include priority booking slots for grocery deliveries and contact from local mutual aid volunteers:

  • have had a solid organ transplant
  • have any cancer and are getting chemotherapy
  • have lung cancer and are getting radical radiotherapy
  • have cancer of the blood or bone marrow, at any stage of treatment - for example, leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma
  • have any cancer for which you’re getting immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments
  • have any cancer for which you’re getting a targeted treatment which can affect the immune system - for example, protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • have a severe respiratory condition - including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • have a rare disease or inborn error of metabolism that significantly increases your risk of infection - for example SCID or homozygous sickle cell
  • are getting an immunosuppression therapy that’s sufficient to significantly increase your risk of infection
  • are pregnant
  • have a significant congenital or acquired heart disease.

The only other possibility is accessing the Sainsbury’s vulnerable slots available, but we have been trying to achieve this for several clients and have attempted to contact the help line numerous times over the last few days and have yet to be able to get through.

The best way to source essentials for vulnerable clients is if family and friends or external carers are willing to go and physically shop, depositing items on doorsteps to stick to social distancing rules.

Local Authority support

Many local authorities have started to set up Community Support telephone lines. These are aimed as the local authorities’ residents who are over 70 or under 70 with underlying health conditions. You can contact them for yourself if you fall in to the criteria or for someone else. Some also have online forms and they can offer community support if the resident has no friends or family nearby due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Support can come in the form of help to collect prescriptions, shopping, topping up gas or electricity meters, with dog walking or simply someone to speak to. In some areas, Hubs are being set up to put together emergency supply packages including toilet roll and basic food parcels.

Check with the relevant local authority either by phone or their website to see what they are doing to help.

Mutual aid groups

For those who do not have anyone able to assist in this way, there are coronavirus mutual aid groups being set up all across the country to help with things like this. You can search groups in your area by clicking here.

Note – many of these are run through Facebook so family members/friends/carers may be better accessing these for people who don’t have Facebook where they feel comfortable.

Other resources that may prove helpful

  • Amazon: you can order certain groceries and essentials from Amazon under ‘Food & Grocery’. Amazon Prime members also have access to ‘Amazon Pantry’ which has a wider product range and offers faster delivery. Previously Amazon Pantry could offer delivery within hours in certain parts of the country but, as with everywhere else, delivery times are someone erratic in the current climate.
  • Mindful Chef: one of few recipe box delivery services still taking new orders – currently available from week commencing 4 April – you can choose 2-3 recipes for 1 person, 2 people, or a family (4 adults or 2 adults, 2-3 children).
  • Eversfield Organic: another one of very few meat/veg delivery boxes still taking new customer orders although only certain products are still available and delivery options are much more limited. Choose from selection boxes or individual fresh and organic meats, fish, veg, fruit and larder options.
  • Pasta Evangelists: available to delivery week commencing 6 April – you can order fresh pasta and sauce kits delivered to your door. They are also currently teamed up with Age UK on their ‘Pasta Care Package’ which costs £25.00, includes three meals (pick from veggie, meat, or a mix) and also donates £5.00 to Age UK. This is a little on the pricey side but could be a welcome treat for anyone who has been living on baked beans for a while already!)

Hopefully you have found some helpful resources here. For those able to get out to the shops, please consider doing so and saving your delivery slots for those who need it most. Please also shop sensibly to ensure there is plenty left for everyone.

We would also recommend dropping little leaflets into any elderly or vulnerable neighbours and friends around you offering your help if you are able or sign up to volunteer for one of your local mutual aid groups.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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