20 February 2021:
R&RA welcome the Government’s commitment to end isolation in care and start reopening care homes as part of the roadmap out of lockdown. After a year of isolation, having a devastating impact on older people, this is urgently needed. R&RA has been campaigning to End Isolation In Care and wrote to the Prime Minister calling for residents to be reunited with their essential caregivers by 1 March. We are pleased the Government has listened to the voices of residents and their families.
As always, the devil will be in the detail. The limited detail published so far seems to fall far short of what is needed to end the heartache, distress and anxiety of isolation for all residents. If the roadmap only allows ‘close contact’ visits – such as help with eating and drinking – in exceptional circumstances as suggested, this is already set out in the existing guidance but simply isn’t happening for too many of our helpline callers. For people with dementia and other conditions, touch is crucial. A change in approach is needed to ensure the most vulnerable residents receive the kind of support necessary to protect their wellbeing.
For many of our helpline callers, being able to visit and hold hands will be a welcome first step. However, asking residents to choose a single constant visitor for face-to-face visits will lead to heart-breaking decisions between family members and friends. In contrast, residents in Scotland will be able to have two visitors from the beginning of March.
If these proposals continue to be set out only in guidance, which is advisory and not mandatory, we are concerned little will change on the ground to reunite families. Enshrining these proposals in law would ensure the promise of meaningful visiting becomes a reality. Following R&RA’s evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, they drafted a new law on reconnecting care home residents with their family/friends, but this has not been taken up by the Government.
We will continue to push to end isolation in care for all older people.
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