Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 11th October 2021

The risk of meeting an infected person while you are out and about in the Bucks community has RISEN AGAIN for the fourth week in a row (to 10 October) and is still VERY HIGH. The number of patients in local hospitals with Covid-19 is also slightly HIGHER. The pandemic in Bucks is steadily getting WORSE and so we continue to urge everyone to stay extremely ‘Covid-Careful’, and to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Read on for more details.

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Covid-19 Risk Assessment Week Ending 4th October 2021

The risk of meeting an infected person while you are out and about in the Bucks community is SLIGHTLY HIGHER than last week (to 4 October) – still VERY HIGH. The number of patients in local hospitals with Covid-19 is slightly LOWER, though STILL HIGH. The pandemic in Bucks is NOT getting any better and so we continue to urge everyone to stay extremely ‘Covid-Careful’, and to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Read on for more details. 

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Who We Are/Home

BuDS are a pan-disability charity that works to break down the barriers that disabled people face. We believe in the Social Model of Disability and are a user-led charity – which means we want to hear from, and work with, you! In just this last year we have taken on our first paid staff,

ant to get involved and help BuDS’ fantastic work? You can donate or fundraise for us – every penny raised goes to our work and we make every penny work very hard. You can also join our volunteer team and make a difference by working on one of our many projects or events. Or why not partner with BuDS – we have win-win relationships with many businesses and organisations. Or just check out and like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus Test Demonstration Post

This is a TEST post to demonstrate how the custom TOC shortcode works.

The Government is saying that a contact tracing app is one of the key steps to take before the current lockdown can be relaxed or ended. This is because such an app, if it worked properly, would allow health workers to know who people with coronavirus had been in contact with, tell them about this and give them the chance to self-isolate before they in turn potentially become infectious and transmit coronavirus to others.

The overall purpose of the app is to reduce the spread of the virus by alerting someone who has unwittingly been close to, or in contact with, someone else who has tested positive for coronavirus or who has symptoms of it, so that they in turn can restrict their activities to avoid infecting anybody else. In a relatively short time, this could sharply reduce the overall risk of catching the virus for everybody.

Theoretically, if everyone followed the advice on isolation from the app based on their contacts, it would allow the lockdown to be relaxed sooner. This is because, if everyone who might have the virus was self-isolating, more businesses and places could reopen as the only customers out and about would be theoretically free of the virus.
 

How Would the App Work?

In simple terms, the app runs on your mobile phone and transmits a signal via Bluetooth. The app picks up signals from all the phones near you inside a certain range and records which phones spent time close to you or beside you for a longer time. If you are diagnosed with the virus, you update the app. The app then sends a message to all the other apps which spent time close to you or beside you for a long time, warning them that they might have caught coronavirus from you.

It is currently unknown exactly how the app will work in its final form, but the most likely operating method is as follows. When the app is installed, every user will always have to keep their device Bluetooth turned on. This will enable the app to communicate wirelessly with other versions, anonymously recording identity, distance between devices and time spent within a set (likely to be 2 metre) range. When a user is informed that they have coronavirus, they will be given a code or similar to input into the app, which will then work out which devices that user had been in contact with. The app will then select which devices have been either too close or in the vicinity of the infected user’s device for too long and send these devices an alert advising users to self-isolate immediately. The app might also be linked to NHS data so that medical professionals could update it on a user’s behalf, but this is not currently confirmed. In addition, it has been confirmed by the BBC that the app will let people self-diagnosis with coronavirus based on their symptoms.
 

What Stage Has the App Reached?

The app is already being used on the Isle of Wight and the government say it will be made available to the general public by mid-May.

The app is intended to be used by everyone who has a compatible device (phone or tablet), in as large numbers as possible. It is estimated that approximately 80% of smartphone users (or at least 56-60% of the total UK population) would need to use it for the system to function effectively. It is currently understood that it will be voluntary for users to download the app, however, which could make it hard for these numbers to be reached.
 

Will the App Help Me?

For people who are especially vulnerable to coronavirus, the app might make no difference. This is because, if you are at high risk of dying from coronavirus, getting an alert on your phone to say you might have it is not much help. What you need to do is to stay away from people to minimise the risk. So shielding and self-isolation for many hundreds of thousands of people will likely continue even if the app is successful.

The app mainly helps healthy people by reducing the risk of going out under a relaxed lockdown, by ‘taking out’ from the public people who might be carriers of coronavirus. The app does this by alerting you if you might have been exposed to people infected with coronavirus. This will allow you to take steps to avoid infecting others, such as isolating for up to 14 days or seeking medical attention. It will also help the NHS as, if people are more aware of the need to isolate based on their contacts, that reduces the rate at which infections will spread, and therefore reduces the load on the NHS.
 

What Concerns are there about the App?

The biggest concern is, of course, whether enough people will use the app for it to work properly. If lots of people are walking around without using the app, those people will not get alerts and if, those non-users get coronavirus, the app cannot tell others that they have been in contact with an infected person. Some people, especially older people, do not have a smartphone at all or one which will run the app, which will cause the same problems. If too many people do not use the app, it might be worthless.

Another concern is whether the app’s data will be followed by the government, as it appears currently that the lockdown may be eased with barely any data collected. In addition, it is common for government projects to result in a case of ‘over-promise and underdeliver’, and it is quite possible that this app will go the same way.
 

Privacy

A further concern is about privacy. The National Cyber Security Centre (part of the government) says the app does not collect any data which identifies you personally and that it is not possible to link app data to you as an individual. However, the app does not comply with the usual privacy rules for mobile phone apps, which causes concern.

There are many technical concerns too. Bluetooth is capable of working through walls, which could lead to ‘false positives’ being issued to users who had been in adjoining rooms to infected individuals, but never actually met or saw them and would therefore be unlikely to have been infected themselves. The system is also open to abuse, as users could falsely report having symptoms in order to troll the system. In addition, early data from the Isle of Wight has shown that there are serious issues with device compatibility, with many relatively modern smartphones unable to run the app despite promises that it would be able to do so.
 

The European Union approach

A further concern is that European Union countries are developing their own apps based on the Apple and Google-developed system. The NHS chose not to use this system for the UK app and the two systems may not be compatible. One particular problem might be that UK residents could end up being quarantined for 14 days when visiting Europe once the lockdown is lifted, even if their own UK app shows that they are not infected.

These issues, when taken together, have led to suggestions that the UK may have to discontinue its own app and move to the Apple and Google developed system.
 

More Information

For more information on the app itself and how it will function as well as some details of how privacy concerns will be addressed, an excellent summary is given by the National Cyber Security Centre here while all major news outlets run stories covering how the testing of the app is progressing and offer more details as to when it will be released. For more in-depth coverage of the issues with the concept of a contact tracing app, Cambridge Computing professor Ross Anderson discusses some of the key problems in his blog here.
 

What Do I Need to Do Now?

For now, however, the best advice on what to do in relation to the app is simply to do nothing. If the Government want the public (outside the Isle of Wight) to download the app, they will announce this.

Volunteering for BuDS

Are you someone who wants to make things better for all disabled people? BuDS is seeking additional volunteers to strengthen our team so that we can continue to fix the big issues affecting disabled people in Bucks.

Being a BuDS Volunteer

BuDS volunteers are people who make Bucks better for disabled people. They don’t have to be disabled people, although most are. BuDS is a pan-disability charity, so we welcome people with all types of impairment and disabilities. Lived experience as a disabled person and determination to change things for the better is just as important as skills or background knowledge.

BuDS is a supportive, inclusive and accepting organisation where everyone can find a place. We understand that disabled people sometimes are not able to volunteer when they’d like to, and we will work around you – even an hour of your time a week is valuable. We are flexible and ensure that we are open to varied ways of working that suit  everyone, whatever their disability or impairment. We like you to work in whatever way suits you best.

We also welcome job seekers and people looking to move closer to work. About half of our volunteers are job seekers or getting work-related experience, and we actively support them by tailoring their role so they get the skills and experience they need. We also give references and will do our best to put you in touch with employers. Last year, 65% of our job seeker volunteers got jobs within a year.

Volunteering is open to anyone who would like to offer their time and skills. However, BuDS also has it’s own project called Reach4Work that helps and supports disabled jobseekers to find employment through volunteering. If you’re interested in this scheme, you can find more information at https://reach4work.org.uk/ and https://bucksworkability.com/  or email info@reach4work.org.uk

BuDS is not part of any DWP or JobCentre training or work programme. However, we are recognised by the DWP and BuDS volunteers do not need to worry about their benefits being affected, as BuDS volunteering can be counted toward work commitments for JSA, ESA and UC.

Working with BuDS

BuDS is a modern charity with excellent IT. Volunteers get email accounts and use of shared document drives. IT support is available.

Some volunteers work from home with only occasional visits to our office, and some work from our comfortable, well-equipped offices in Aylesbury town centre. During the Covid19 pandemic, all volunteering is remote.

BuDS is a high-profile charity and there are opportunities for public campaigning and lobbying. However, there are just as many opportunities for quiet behind-the-scenes work – both are needed to get things done. We need help with social media, writing webpages and articles, assisting at events, researching local issues, and more. BuDS volunteers all have a hands-on role, taking on specific roles within a project. Your exact role can be created or tailored to your availability, interests and skills, so that everyone – especially you – is happy.

BuDS volunteers can claim travel or subsistence expenses on request. There is a Volunteer Agreement and you are fully protected by our extensive public liability insurance.

How Do I Apply?

Please e-mail volunteering@buds.org.uk to express an interest in becoming a volunteer or if you’d like an informal, no-commitment, chat with an existing volunteer.

Once you’ve registered your interest, we will ask you to send us a brief CV and to explain why you would like to be a volunteer. A CV is ideal, but not mandatory as we will send you a short form to find out about your skills and experience and what you would like to gain from volunteering with us. We will then arrange an informal chat with one or two of our Trustees to find out more about you.

Following that, we will ask you to sign a Volunteer Agreement to become a BuDS volunteer and start working on one of our projects.

Safeguarding is very important to us. Each role is individually assessed and many of our volunteers will have to have adult and/or children enhanced DBS (criminal record) checks. We arrange and pay for this if needed. Equally, we may need to take up character references. We understand that some disabled people may have a criminal record or difficult periods in their past, and we will consider everyone individually and carry out a risk assessment in discussion with you.