Relatives & Residents Association

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Another xmas in isolation?

20 December 2021:

With days to go before Christmas, people in care find themselves left behind once again. Whilst the rest of the country is free to enjoy Christmas parties, reconnect with family, even use their covid passes to go clubbing, care home residents are facing a depressing repeat of last Christmas. No covid pass is on offer as they are dictated to by Government guidance, setting out only three ‘visitors’ are allowed, plus an essential caregiver. And those will be the lucky ones; others are still battling to get meaningful contact and being refused the role of essential caregiver, despite it being set out in Government guidance since March.

 

Many callers to our helpline find themselves reliving the trauma of last Christmas when they couldn’t see partners, mums, dads, sisters, brothers, dear friends. But this time around, emotionally it seems to be worse. Families were offered a glimmer of hope when visiting guidance was updated in November, lifting restrictions. This was short-lived and two weeks later stringent rules were re-imposed. That ray of light, in such a dark year, was expelled so suddenly.

 

For people living apart from their family, contact with them becomes all the more vital. Not just for maintaining life-long relationships but also for residents’ wellbeing. Many care homes recognise this and have been working hard to facilitate safe contact, welcoming relatives and friends back. They have seen the benefits for residents but have also appreciated the support at a time when staff shortages are crippling services.

 

It has becomes a postcode lottery which the regulator has done little to end, retreating to the side-lines when they were needed the most. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) seem content to sit back and wait for concerns to be reported to them. Due to the vast power imbalance in care, we know from our helpline that many families are too afraid to speak out and even report concerns to the CQC for fear of reprisals, including ultimately eviction. It is astonishing and simply unacceptable that the regulator has not taken a proactive role. Why not write to all providers setting out why visiting is a key part of good care and what is expected to comply with the CQC’s own legal regulations? We have been asking them to do this since February, to no avail.

 

People in care have been failed by the very systems designed to protect their rights. With a public inquiry around the corner, we will be making sure these failings come to light and the voices of older people are heard. But by then it will be too late for too many, who fear this Christmas will be their last. To have to choose which three of your relatives or life-long friends to spend it with has been heart-breaking for people who have already been through so much.


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