Coronavirus (COVID-19): older people - information

Coronavirus information and available services, including helpline numbers that older people will find valuable.


We know that older people have been adversely affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and it has been an especially difficult time throughout the past eight months, with many having to shield, not being able to see loved ones and having to adapt to a new way of living.

The Scottish Government appreciates the sacrifices older people have made and continue to make and want to ensure that as we have now entered winter, that older people feel supported and know where to seek help if they need it.

This guide contains information services, resources and helpline numbers to assist older people.

Information and services


The National Assistance Helpline:

This allows older people to access local authority support.

It is a freephone number (0800 111 4000),with a textphone alternative, that connects callers to teams in the relevant local authority who can assess need and arrange provision of support including:

  • food or money for food, if they're not able to get the day-to-day food they need
  • medication, if they’re not able to pick up the prescriptions they need
  • access to local social work services
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

Age Scotland Helpline

This a free, confidential phone service for older people, their carers and families in Scotland.

The Helpline not only signposts people to advice and information on a number of different services including local services and support, it also provides friendship for those looking for a friendly chat – which can be a real lifeline to those who are feeling lonely.

The helpline is free to call (0800 12 44 222) and available Monday - Friday 9am to 5pm.

Hourglass Helpline:

The Helpline is available from 9am to 5pm every Monday to Friday, offering:

  • support for older people who have experienced, or are at risk of, any kind of harm, abuse or exploitation
  • support for anyone concerned about an older person, e.g. family, friends, neighbours, carers or health professionals
  • information and advice relating to safer ageing and prevention

The Hourglass helpline is entirely confidential, free to call from a landline or mobile, and the number won’t appear on your phone bill. Help is just a phone call away: 0808 808 8141.

Access to food

Some older people might wish to avoid busy times when doing their shopping. This guidance contains helpful information around priority hours and what shops are offering this, and when shops will be quieter to use. For more information read getting help with food and shopping

Many supermarkets and shops offer online shopping and delivery, click and collect, in-store shopping with delivery and ordering by phone. Follow this link for information about ordering food boxes and prepared meals.

You can ask family, friends or neighbours to do your shopping using a gift card.

In addition to the services offered by larger retailers, many local businesses also offer a range of goods which can be delivered to you.

For individuals who need support with access to food or money for food, if they're not able to get the day-to-day food they should call the National Helpline on 0800 111 4000. More information about the helpline can be below.

Face covering exemption cards

Scottish Government developed a digital and physical face covering exemption card for those who are exempt in the regulations and guidance. These cards were available for people to request from 29 October 2020.

The cards will be delivered by Disability Equality Scotland (DES) on behalf of the Scottish Government and are available online by through NHS Scotland or via the free helpline on 0800 121 6240.

Mental health and wellbeing

It’s understandable if what’s happening just now is affecting how you feel. Many of the emotions you have will be common given what is going on at the moment.

However, it can become harder to deal with these feelings as time goes on. And it may also be more difficult to do the things you would normally do to keep yourself feeling well. Some of us will take longer to feel comfortable about going out and about – and that’s ok too. It’s important you take your time and feel safe when you do go out.

Be kind to yourself and learn to recognise when you start to struggle with your emotions or feel low. The tips on the Clear Your Head website are designed to help look after your mental health and wellbeing, and there is more information on getting the right help and support out there too.

We recognise that with the shorter and colder days over winter, and as restrictions change, so too the things you might find helpful will also change, and so we’ll be updating and refreshing the Clear Your Head campaign in December and January focussing on the importance of keeping in touch with others over the festive season and making time to be kind to yourself and others. Be sure to take a look at the website to stay up to date and try the new tips and advice that have been included.

NHS inform also offers self-help guides on different aspects of your emotional health, like dealing with low moods, anxiety and sleep problems.

Any time you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and speak to someone you trust. That could be a friend, a family member or your GP. Or you may find it easier to call a helpline or text Shout’s 24/7 crisis text service on 85258.

Samaritans - 116 123

If you are going through a difficult time, you can get in touch with Samaritans on 116 123 or day or night. You can talk to Samaritans about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how large or small the issue feels. You don’t have to give your name or other personal details. It’s always free to call from any landline or mobile phone, even if you don’t have credit. Find other resources and more information on the Samaritans website.

Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87 is a free, phone and web chat service and you don’t have to give your name or other personal details. It is open Monday – Thursday, 6pm – 2am and Friday 6pm – Monday 6am.

NHS24 Mental Health Hub – 111

If you need urgent support for your mental or emotional health, you can call the NHS24 Mental Health Hub on 111. The service is open 24 hours every day for anyone in Scotland. A Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, trained to support those experiencing feelings of distress, will answer your call and ask you some questions about who you are and the reasons for your call, so that they can get the best help for you. 

If you have experienced mental health issues before, you might find that those difficulties have reappeared or worsened. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and you already receive support, phone your GP or care team first. If you can’t talk to them, call 111 to speak to NHS24.

Feelings of panic

You might also have physical reactions that are unusual for you, such as sweaty palms, dizziness or a racing heartbeat. These can be distressing and feel very serious. Phone NHS24 (short code 111) if you need help. However, these could be signs of a panic attack. Although they feel awful, they are normally harmless.

NHS inform also has a range of self-help guides that use cognitive behavioural therapy and expert advice to help you work through symptoms of anxiety and, depression, or help you deal with panic, grief and trauma.

Test and Protect – help stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Testing for COVID-19 in Scotland is available to all symptomatic individuals including all health and social care staff through the Test and Protect Programme.

A test can be booked through NHS Inform or by calling 0800 028 2816. If anyone requires assistance to book a test they are able to contact 119.

We published Scotland’s COVID-19 testing strategy on 17 August 2020 which identifies the following priorities for the next phase of testing: 

  • whole population testing of anyone with symptoms (Test and Protect)
  • proactive case finding by testing contacts and testing in outbreaks
  • protecting the vulnerable and preventing outbreaks in high risk settings by routine testing
  • testing for direct patient care, to diagnose and to treat, and to support safe patient care as  NHS services restart
  • surveillance to understand the disease, track prevalence, understand transmission and monitor key sectors

Staying connected

For people who can’t get online and are at increased risk from coronavirus, a national helpline (0800 111 4000) is available to help people access services they need in their local community.

For those who are online or are helping someone get online and need some support, there are resources available to help with this, including steps to take to become more confident and information on Digital Champions. There is lots of help on the Connecting Scotland website.

We are also providing additional funding for the Connecting Scotland Programme, specifically to get 5000 older people online this winter. More information can be found on the Connecting Scotland website.

Winter Fuel Payment

While the Winter Fuel Payment is one of the eleven benefits being devolved to the Scottish Government (the Winter Heating Assistance is the replacement benefit for Winter Fuel Payment). We have not yet taken over responsibility for its’ administration. Consequently, the rules governing who is eligible to receive it and how much they are paid are currently still set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Read more information about the Winter Fuel Payment.

Age Scotland’s Warm and Well

We understand that people probably already know quite a lot about staying warm in their home and how to cope with a Scottish winter, but there may be even more you can do to stay warm and to manage your energy bills.

Age Scotland’s Warm and Well guide explains how to make your home energy efficient, manage your bills, keep your home warm, benefit the environment and stay as well as you can over winter.

Many aspects of energy efficiency are simply common sense, but it's worth checking that you know how to use your heating efficiently and make sure it is checked regularly. It is important not to let your house be too cold; you should aim for a temperature of between 18 and 21C to reduce your risk of health problems. You can find some helpful information on Age UK’s website.

Home Energy Scotland

Home Energy Scotland are a network of local advice centres covering all of Scotland. Their expert advisors offer free, impartial advice on energy saving, keeping warm at home, renewable energy, greener travel, cutting water waste and more.

They also provide information on insulation, you can find information on the Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland website. Alternatively, you can call 0808 808 2282 where you can speak to an advisor.

All calls are free and the helpline is available  Monday – Friday from 8am – 8pm and Saturday from 9am – 5pm. Please note, their phone lines are often quite busy in the evenings and at weekends.

Scottish Welfare Fund

People who are experiencing financial hardship may be eligible to receive help from the Scottish Welfare Fund. It provides Crisis Grants to individuals on low incomes who are in financial difficulties because of a disaster (like a fire or flood) or an emergency (like losing money or an unexpected expense). It also provides Community Care Grants to individuals on low incomes who need help to establish or maintain a settled home. The grants are made by local authorities and you can find more information, including how to apply and links to your local authority’s on the Scottish Welfare Fund website.

Money Talks

For personalised advice on money matters, you may also wish to contact the Money Talk Team. An income maximisation service funded by Scottish Government and delivered by the Citizens Advice Network in Scotland, who can help you find out whether there are other benefits or grants which you may be entitled to receive. You can call them on their Freephone number 0800 085 7145 or you can find out more by visiting the Money Talks website.

The service aims to ensure that people are claiming all the grants and benefits they are entitled to and they don’t pay more than they need to for basic services like utilities.

Benefit and entitlement checks

Age Scotland offers free benefit and entitlement checks and can support older people with pension credit claims. Age Scotland have also produced a free guide to claiming social security benefits and grants for older people in Scotland. Age Scotland’s helpline can be reached on 0800 12 44 222 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.


A community optometry practice is the same as an opticians. In order to access community optometry services you just contact a local practice. At the moment, patients are not being advised to turn up without an appointment so phoning or booking an appointment online is usually the best route.

A list of practices can be found on NHS Inform.

If additional assistance is required, a patient or their representative should phone a local practice who will help find the most appropriate service.

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