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COVID-19 Scottish Government SMS shielding service and national helpline

UPDATE 4 June 2020

The Scottish Government website includes a COVID-19 section with guidance on support, information, food and other essentials for individuals, as well as a wide range of sectors.

This week, the Scottish Government launched a National Assistance Helpline for people who are over 70 or receive the flu vaccine for medical reasons, do not have any access to the internet, and do not have anyone to help get essential supplies like food or medicine. You can pass this number on to someone you are supporting, or call on their behalf. More information is available from Ready Scotland

Guidance for callers – shielding and older people

If you are community organisation that has been contacted by someone who has received a letter about the SMS shielding service and is asking for your help to access this or understand this, the Scottish Government has provided guidance for you:

Shielding is for a specific group of around 120,000 people in Scotland, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). To help someone who’s shielding, it’s important that anyone else in the person’s household, their family and friends also understand and follow NHS shielding guidance. The latest on advice on who should be shielding and what support they can get can be found on NHS Inform.

The Scottish Government is also helping to support people who are in the specific shielding group by sending updates and help direct to their mobile phone, in particular to offer a weekly delivery of food, household items and delivery of prescription medications. This is called the SMS Shielding Service. A letter has been sent out to ask people who are shielding to register for the SMS Shielding Service.

People who are shielding and cannot access the SMS Shielding Service can still access support through their local council’s shielding support line.

Some people who receive a letter about the SMS Shielding Service may need more help to understand the content of the letter and what they need to do next. These people may:

  • not have access to a mobile phone
  • be anxious about using a government service
  • rely on support from other people who they may not be able to contact at the moment
  • be worried about how they can get the things they need, such as medicine or food, if they have no means of getting these while following government advice to stay at home.

When on a call with someone, you should check that the person has received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer and ask whether the person has been able to sign up to the SMS Shielding Service. If they have not been able to register themselves using the SMS system, then please ask the person to either:

  1. Contact their local council’s shielding support line themselves if possible. The contact details for each local council’s shielding support line can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.
  2. If this is not possible, then you should offer to contact their local council on their behalf and arrange for the person to be called back. You will need to check with the person that they are happy for their details to be shared. If the person is worried about data protection[1], you should let the person know that this is just to allow the call to be set up. You should also check that the person is happy to speak to someone from the local council, or if they would like the call to be directed to their ‘legal carer’. When speaking to the local council, make sure you give them the person’s contact details and let them know a return call to the person is needed.

[1] You can find further guidance about use and sharing of data during COVID-19 at:


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