Here for you during Covid-19
Here at Guide Dogs our top priority is the welfare and safety of the people we support, our volunteers, staff and our dogs. We remain committed to helping people with sight loss lead the life they choose through our services.
We have a plan which we are reviewing daily, based on the latest advice from the government, and we are tracking the current approaches being deployed across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We recommend everyone keeps up-to-date with the latest NHS guidelines.
We are no longer running any face to face services but we have made changes so we can still support those with sight loss. Please read through our guidance and resources below, or contact your local team. We have also had to make changes to our volunteering roles to keep everyone safe, you can find our advice and information below.
Call our COVID-19 sight loss information line
How we can help...
Publicly available guidance and support
We recommend you follow government guidelines, abiding by social distancing and self-isolation where appropriate.
If you get Coronavirus symptoms (persistent cough, high temperature, etc.) please call your local Guide Dog office to notify us that you are ill. If you need to go into hospital please call us, or arrange for a friend to call us, to let us know. Our emergency out of hours number is 0345 143 0216.
Our offices and centres
We have asked our staff to work from home wherever possible. Our central office in Burghfield remains open during core hours (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). and we'll continue to answer your calls and provide support in person, whilst adhering to social distancing measures.
Forfar, Atherton, Redbridge, Leamington Spa training schools and all our Community Team offices are now shut. Our National Breeding Centre will continue to operate but with essential staffing only. You can still reach all our Community Teams by phone and we'd love to hear from you and offer support.
Staying COVID-19 Secure in 2020
We have taken the necessary steps and complied with government guidelines to ensure the safety of all, whilst our offices start to open and dog training begins to resume:
- We've carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and shared the results with the people who work here
- We have cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures in line with guidance
- We've taken all reasonable steps to help people work from home
- We've taken all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance in the workplace
- Where people can't be 2m apart, we've done everything practical to manage the risk of transmission
Update on our breeding programme
During the Covid-19 outbreak, we’ve had to make some temporary changes at our National Breeding Centre (NBC) to protect our staff, volunteers and our life-changing dogs.
Our National Breeding Centre remains open with a small team of specific staff on-site to support our dog services. But we’ve had to make the difficult, but necessary, decision to pause our breeding programme. This means we’re not breeding any new litters at the moment, and instead we will focus on caring for our young puppies and expectant guide dog mums at this challenging time.
We’ll continue to monitor the Government’s advice closely and will restart our breeding programme as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Other activities such as our public tours, events and puppy helper experiences, have also been temporarily postponed.
Looking after expectant mums and their volunteers
Our mums and dad dogs are cared for by our wonderful volunteers in their own homes. Those caring for our guide dog mums also help to deliver and rear our newborn pups in the early weeks.
We have a number of guide dog mums who were already expecting litters before the lockdown was announced. We’re continuing to provide our volunteers with expert advice and support over the phone, so they are well-equipped to care for the dogs and puppies when they arrive.
All our volunteers have previously received detailed training in how to care for a guide dog mum when she is having a litter and have all the equipment needed to provide the best care possible. While there aren’t any face-to-face visits currently taking place, our volunteers remain fully supported and have 24-hour access to expert advice and guidance, using all the technologies available to us.
Caring for young puppies
Puppies cared for at the National Breeding Centre will now stay with us until they are 12 weeks old. This means they can still receive their primary vaccinations, while it is difficult to do these at vet practices. Our staff are also making sure pups receive the best possible socialisation while in our care.
Placing puppies with volunteer puppy walkers
After initially pausing placing new puppies with volunteer puppy walkers, we are now in a position to resume this again from the beginning of May. This will make sure our puppies benefit from early socialisation in volunteers’ homes, which helps develop their life skills in becoming guide dogs. We will of course continue to follow the Government’s social distancing guidance to protect everyone involved when it comes to placing our puppies with volunteers.
We appreciate that times are really difficult at the moment, however we need your support now more than ever before to make sure we can continue to provide our life-changing services to people with sight loss. Your contribution, however small, will go a long way. Thank you.
From catching up with friends over a cuppa, to striding out for your daily exercise, there are so many ways you can help us support people with sight loss during this pandemic.