To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 5 May 2020 to Question 40719 on supermarkets: coronavirus, what steps he is taking to ensure that supermarkets improve the accessibility of online shopping for people with sight loss.
The Government has been working closely with local authorities, retailers, food businesses and charities to ensure that blind and partially sighted people have access to the food and essential goods that they need.
We have published guidance online that explains what steps people can take if they are unable to access food. This guidance has been shared with local authorities, retailers and charities to help them respond to enquiries from those seeking help. The guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-accessing-food-and-essential-supplies.
Various sight loss charities are working directly with some of the major supermarkets to take forward some practical initiatives to help people with sight loss to access supermarkets.
We have secured a number of supermarket delivery slots for the dedicated use of vulnerable people who are having difficulties in securing access to food and who have no other options available to them. We are working closely with local authorities and charities to help make sure these delivery slots are made available to those who need them most. We have built a bespoke digital service to enable local authorities and a number of charities to directly refer individuals for access to the prioritised slots.
In addition, over 600,000 people are now registered as NHS Volunteer Responders. Verified volunteer responders can receive tasks to help those in their communities, including through shopping for vulnerable people for food and essential supplies. Health and care professionals and approved charities (including Citizens Advice and Age UK) are now able to refer vulnerable individuals into the system to receive support from volunteers.
It is now possible for individuals to self-refer for assistance from the NHS Volunteer Responders if they consider themselves to be vulnerable and in need of support.