Relatives & Residents Association

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Amplifying voices

R&RA’s director, Helen Wildbore, spoke at our AGM about our work to champion the rights of older people needing care

22 July 2021

I joined R&RA as director in October 2019 and nothing could have prepared me for the challenges 2020 would bring. The pandemic, and measures taken to manage it, have had a devastating impact on older people needing care. Our specialist helpline has supported people using care and their family/friends throughout. As the first lockdown took hold and separated couples, families, friends. Through the shock of the care sector being neglected. Through the grief and loss caused by the virus and the Government’s mismanagement of it. Through the anxiety of so many months of isolation and the deterioration it caused. Through the frustration of care users being left behind time and again. We’ve been advising on the law, supporting people through difficult conversations and negotiations with care providers, empowering people and providing advocacy where necessary to help them push for rights to be respected.

It is a privilege to work at R&RA with our brilliant team of staff, volunteers, trustees and our wider family of supporters

 

We have been campaigning to End Isolation In Care, calling for care users to be reunited with relatives and friends, to end the closed cultures taking hold in some settings. But also to reinstate the face-to-face support of other professional crucial to ensuring rights are respected. The health professionals like GPs, district nurses, therapists, mental health specialists, dentists, opticians. But also social workers, safeguarding teams, CQC inspectors.

 

We have fed our unique insights and evidence from the helpline into our policy work. Including writing to the CQC, twice, to express disappointment with their role during the pandemic. We called on them to be proactive in ensuring care users rights are protected and to represent the sector to get the support it needs. We gave evidence to Parliament on the impact of the pandemic on older people needing care, including the APPG on Coronavirus and the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

 

In all of this, we have shared the stories of residents, their relatives and friends to ensure their experiences and voices are heard by those in power and by the public. To champion their rights and push for better quality of care. Thank you to our members and supporters who have helped make all this work possible.

 

Looking to the future, there is still plenty of work to do to stop older people needing care being left behind as we emerge from the pandemic. This week has shown the size of that challenge as restrictions were lifted across the country, except for those in care. R&RA has a crucial role to play in supporting care users and their families pick up the pieces and recover from the past 17 months.

 

There is also much work to do to push for better quality services which respect the rights of older people, through expanding our corporate member scheme, supporting the sector with information and resources, and working with others to push for better training and standards.

 

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the sector, highlighting problems we have long known need fixing. We need to keep that spotlight on, to bring the lasting change the sector desperately needs and to help push for the care sector to be as highly valued as the NHS.

It is a privilege to work at R&RA with our brilliant team of staff, volunteers, trustees and wider family. Our members are our backbone. We thank you for your continued support as we continue the fight for better quality of life for older people needing care.


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