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Advice for carers & relatives

Coronavirus may make some aspects of caring more difficult. This advice is for carers of someone who lives in the community with a severe mental illness.

Where to find support as a carer

MindWise have a Carer and Family Support service. You can find out more about how to refer yourself to our service here. 

Cause are a peer-led organisation for people who care for someone with a mental illness. If you have any concerns, questions or issues about any aspect of caring for someone living with a serious and complex mental illness, you can contact them through:

  • Their free, confidential helpline which is 0800 103 2833. Lines are open Monday, Wednesday & Friday: 10.00am - 4.00pm Tuesday & Thursday: 12 noon - 8.00pm
  • Email: 

Advice for carers & relatives during coronavirus

This information is for anyone who is a carer of someone who lives in the community with a severe mental illness. By ‘carer’ we mean an unpaid carer, such as a relative of friend. This information is adapted from our partners at Rethink Mental Illness. 

We refer to the person you care for as ‘my relative’ or ‘your relative.’

This information doesn’t apply if your relative is in a care or nursing home or is in hospital.

Being a carer for someone living with a severe mental illness can be challenging at the best of times. But the current coronavirus pandemic could create additional problems.

Some people have been advised by the government to self-isolate. Such as people over 70 years of age, or those who have an underlying health condition. For the latest advice on coronavirus and who should self-isolate, you can look on the following websites:, and

If you can’t access the internet you can call the NHS on 111.

How can I plan in case my relative or I have to self-isolate? 

You can write a contingency plan. The plan will say what happens if you or your relative have to self-isolate. It is better to plan now rather than to wait for something to happen. Having the plan in place should make you and your relative less anxious.

You can read Rethink's information on ‘Planning for the future: Your relative’s care and support’ by clicking here:

Also, you can get information on writing a contingency plan by clicking here:

My relative is supported by a mental health team. What can I do?

Your relative might be supported by an NHS mental health team. If they are, you can contact them to ask what support they will give if either of you have to self-isolate.

If your relative has a care co-ordinator, contact them. They are overall responsible for your relative’s care. If your relative has no care co-ordinator, you can contact the person they normally deal with.

What can I do to make sure my relative’s care plan is suitable?

If your relative is supported by an NHS mental health team, they should have a written care plan in place. The plan should say what support and treatment they should be getting to meet their needs.

If they don’t have a care plan, you can ask their mental health team to see your relative and assess their needs.

If they have a plan, but you don’t copy, you or your relative can contact their mental health team to ask for one.

You can check to see if your relative’s care plan meets their needs. You or your relative can contact their mental health team and ask for their plan to be reassessed if:

• It doesn’t meet their current needs, or
• Their needs have changed because you or your relative have had to self-isolate.

What can I do if I need to get information from my relative’s mental health team or social services?

If you or your relative needs to self-isolate, you might want to get information about them from professionals who support them like:

• Their mental health team, or
• Social services.

Professionals can’t usually share confidential information about your relative with you, unless your relative agrees. You can read more about this in Rethink's information on ‘Confidentiality and information sharing: For carers, friends and family’ by clicking here:

You and your relative can take steps so professionals can share information with you. Please see the section called ‘What arrangements can I make for the future?’ in the above link.

You will see your relative can sign a consent form to allow you to get information from professionals. You can use our specimen consent form. Go to the top of the link and you will see that you can download a copy of our factsheet. The specimen consent form is towards the end of that factsheet.

I must self-isolate. Who can care for my relative?

You can ask another relative, a friend or a neighbour of yours or your relative to help them.

If you are in a carers group, you can ask another member of the group to help. Maybe group members can agree to help each other until the coronavirus situation improves.

If there is no-one to support your relative, social services should help.

A lot of local support groups are being set up to help people affected by the virus. You can go online and search for support in your local area. Or call your local councillor and ask if they know of any groups. You can find details of your local councillors by clicking here:

Support groups may be able to help with things like shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing phone calls to stop you, or your relative, if feeling isolated.

My relative or I currently have support from social services. What can I do?

Your relative might get social care from social services. Or they might support you as a carer. Or both of these things might apply.

Care plans should meet your relatives needs or your needs as a carer. Needs might change if you or your relative have to self-isolate. If this happens get in touch with social services. They have to reassess care plans if the needs of the person change.

We currently have no support from social services. How can we get it?

Your relative has a right to have what is known as a needs assessment from social services, with a view to getting social care. You can read more about this on the NI Direct site:

Also, as a carer you have a right to a carers assessment from social services if you need support from them.You and your relative can have an assessment together, so social services can assess your needs jointly.  You can find out more about carers' assessments on the NI Direct site:

If your relative needs urgent social care support, tell social services this. They may be able to arrange urgent support for your relative before a full assessment is done.

Where can I get advice about local social care and other support for my relative?

Your local social services have a duty to provide you with information on local social care and other support for your relative. 

You can also find carers' groups on the Cause website:

My relative or I must self-isolate. How can I stay in touch with them?

As well as calling your relative you can stay in touch with them in other ways such as text message, Skype, WhatsApp or social media, for example.

You could contact them and work together on a plan for the day for them. Once you’ve done this, you can message them the plan, so they have it in writing.

You could call them or message them with reminders. So, you could remind them about things like taking their medication, going to appointments or having meals.

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