26 November 2021:
Blink and you’ll miss it: the Government have lifted visiting restrictions in care homes across England. This is welcome news.
Whilst COVID-19 restrictions were lifted across England in July, people living in care have still been subject to Government guidance setting out restrictions on the contact they can have with family and friends. Four months after so-called ‘freedom day’, guidance has finally been published setting out “there are no nationally set restrictions on friends and family visiting their loved ones in care homes”. R&RA have been calling for an end to the discrimination against people living in care, left behind as the rest of the country saw restrictions lifted. We are pleased to see the Government’s intention to end this discrimination.
But if the Government had intended this to be ‘freedom day’ for people living in care we fear this will be lost in the pages of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that follow, including some deeply troubling caveats which continue to put rights at risk. Most concerning is the continuation of two weeks’ quarantine after an unplanned hospital stay – this blanket rule, only applying to those living in care settings, is unfair, discriminatory and deeply damaging to older people’s wellbeing.
The new guidance is a ray of hope with Christmas around the corner and there are many improvements to the guidance R&RA successfully lobbied for. For example, better respect for resident’s autonomy and the need to comply with the Mental Capacity Act, and confirmation that visits shouldn’t be time limited.
But after 21 long months, the Government must now show leadership to end the catastrophic attack on older people’s human rights. Work must begin now to overhaul the visiting guidance, putting the rights of people living in care at its heart, before it is too late for too many. Guidance should start from the position that care homes are people’s homes, and people living in care have the same rights as the rest of the country including to family life, liberty and autonomy. We have been calling for this approach for months.
Yesterday, R&RA launched a new video sharing the story of Frances, 100 years old, and the continued isolation she faces in her care home which she said “doesn’t feel like my home” and pleas “give me back my human rights and freedom the same as the rest of the country. I fought for our freedom!” View the video here.