Relatives & Residents Association

We support, inform and speak on behalf of older people in care


Allow essential visitors, protect rights

15 January 2021:

R&RA’s director has called on Parliament to take action to ensure essential visitors are granted safe access to care homes to protect the rights of older people. Giving evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Helen Wildbore said:

“In month eleven of visiting restrictions in care homes across England, our helpline continues to hear of the devastating impact isolation is having on residents, putting their human rights at risk. Many families feel bereft and abandoned, that the systems in place to protect and safeguard rights have let them down. Too many of our helpline callers are afraid to speak out and use their legal rights for fear of reprisals, including eviction. We need to address that power imbalance.”

“As cases rise across England, protecting care users and staff from the virus is of upmost importance, but almost a year of isolation has created another risk to the well-being of older people living in care. Care homes need to manage both the risk to well-being from isolation and the risk posed by the virus via individual assessments. Essential visitors – providing crucial practical or emotional support – need to be granted access, to ensure residents rights are respected. Such visitors should be subject to the same safety precautions as staff (testing, appropriate PPE, access to vaccines) so they are seen as a vital part of the care team.”

The Committee heard how the rights of older people in care are risk, including:

  • right to family life: with life-long partnerships separated, parents alienated from children and people afraid they won’t meet their grandchildren before passing away
  • right to well-being: with increased mental distress and confusion, and too many unable to have the love and support of their families as they approach the end of their lives
  • right to be free from degrading treatment: where the impact on mental and physical health is severe, this may cross the threshold to be degrading treatment
  • right to liberty: for residents told, throughout the pandemic, they are not able to leave their care home

Almost a year into visiting restrictions, time is of the essence. Urgent action is needed to end the human rights crisis in care.

Watch the evidence session here.

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