A cross-party coalition of MPs has joined our call for a new legal right to ensure people can maintain contact with their family across health and care settings. Over 60 MPs have signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in response to the severe, detrimental impact isolation from family and friends has caused.
The joint call follows our event in Parliament on 9 March, which co-chair Tracey Crouch MP described as one of the “most powerful” she has been involved in. People who have been affected by separation during the pandemic travelled to Westminster to talk to MPs about why this new right is needed. Listening to the “harrowing experiences of people unable to see loved ones”, James Wild MP said “it can’t be right that there’s a postcode lottery that leads to such cruel outcomes.”
During the pandemic, Ann was unable to support her mother in a care home who would call up to 30 times a day telling her she needed help or was in pain. When Ann asked for meaningful contact, her mother was served with an eviction notice but passed away before the deadline.
“Sitting with my mother’s body was the longest time I had been allowed to spend with her since she had entered the care home sixteen months before.”
The letter to the Secretary of State, sent on 23 May, has been coordinated by four MPs: Labour MP Dan Carden, Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, and Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts. Many more MPs have expressed their support but were unable to sign the joint letter due to their Ministerial/Shadow roles.
MPs are calling on the Secretary of State to create a new legal right which would give anyone who needs care and support access to a ‘care supporter’ – a relative or friend who can help them wherever they need it, such as in hospitals, care homes or GP surgeries. The joint letter is below.
R&RA director, Helen Wildbore, said:
“MPs have sent a message loud and clear to the Government: never again should those who need support be cut off from the people they need most. The support of partners, parents, sons and daughters is not an optional extra, but vital to dignified care. The Government must answer this call to ensure the devastating harm of the past two years is never repeated.”
Letter to Secretary of State
23 May 2022
Dear Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,
We are writing this letter to highlight the harm and misery caused to people isolated within the health and care system and to request your intervention. The rights of those in care settings to maintain contact with their loved ones requires urgent codification.
Although there are some excellent examples of good practice, from which others could learn, there is too much uncertainty and variability throughout the system. There continues to be shocking instances of denial of any contact, with tragic consequences for the resident, patient or service user, and lasting damage for friends or family left behind.
These continuing failures are eroding trust across the entire system.
From hospitals to care homes, there is an urgent need for the introduction of a legal right that guarantees contact with a ‘care supporter’ – a relative or friend to provide support when it is required.
The Scottish Government is currently preparing legislation that will ensure people residing in care settings will have a legal right to maintain contact with those who are important to them. As in the rest of the UK, advisory guidance has proven ineffective at protecting the human rights of those in health and care settings.
People using services and their families have told of harrowing experiences this separation has caused – from residents who were threatened with eviction notices for highlighting Government guidance, to family members who were able to spend more time with their family members once they had passed away than they could during the last months of their life.
It is important to stress that this situation was exacerbated by, but is not exclusive to, the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, many families still experience major and traumatic difficulties when trying to support their relatives in care settings.
The mental health impact on both those in care settings, and their families, is drastic. It can also affect the wellbeing and resilience of those receiving care or treatment, thus undercutting the value of the services provided.
At our event on the 9th of March, Guaranteeing the Right to Maintain Contact, we heard from several families on the continuing inadequacy of visiting guidance.
We are grateful to the Minister for Care for attending part of this meeting, and in a letter after the event, committing the Department of Health and Social Care to ‘keeping the need for legislative options under active review.’
We believe this legal right is now even more imperative following the withdrawal of free coronavirus tests, ongoing restrictions leading to rolling lockdowns and the widespread confusion about ‘living with Covid’, as well as record infection rates.
Without a change to the guidance on outbreak management, residents will continue to remain largely isolated from family, friends, and wider society.
There is clear cross-party support for the introduction of this legal right and we would like to request a meeting to discuss our request in further detail.
Furthermore, over 30 organisations, including Mencap, Mind and Alzheimer’s Society have signified their support for such a legal right.
We look forward to your action on this timely and important matter.
Dan Carden, MP for Liverpool Walton
Tracey Crouch MP, Chatham and Aylesford
Daisy Cooper MP, St Albans
Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Ed Davey MP, Kingston and Surbiton
Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Pavillion
Diana Johnson MP, Kingston Upon Hull North
Peter Dowd MP, Bootle
Munira Wilson MP, Twickenham
Barry Gardiner MP, Brent North
Rosie Cooper MP, West Lancashire
Kim Johnson MP, Liverpool Riverside
Judith Cummins MP, Bradford South
Gordon Henderson MP, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Andrew Selous MP, South West Bedfordshire
Rachael Maskell MP, York Central
Maria Eagle MP, Garston and Halewood
Ian Byrne MP, Liverpool West Derby
Kate Osborne MP, Jarrow
Ben Lake MP, Ceredigion
Wera Hobhouse MP, Bath
Rushanara Ali MP, Bethnal Green and Bow
Dr Lisa Cameron MP, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
Stephen Metcalfe MP, South Basildon and East Thurrock
Stephen Farry MP, North Down
Tahir Ali, MP, Birmingham Hall Green
Mohammad Yasin MP, Bedford
Desmond Swayne MP, New Forest West
Andy McDonald MP, Middlesbrough
George Howarth MP, Knowsley
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, South Shields
Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Central Ayrshire
Kate Osamor MP, Edmonton
James Wild MP, North West Norfolk
Andrew Rosindell MP, Romford
Jim Shannon MP, Strangford
Valerie Vaz MP, Walsall South
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Salford and Eccles
Ian Lavery MP, Wansbeck
John McDonnell MP, Hayes and Harlington
Zarah Sultana MP, Coventry South
Dr Dan Poulter MP, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Sarah Champion MP, Rotherham
Mick Whitley MP, Birkenhead
Claire Hanna MP, Belfast South
Alicia Kearns MP, Rutland and Melton
Margaret Greenwood MP, Wirral West
Kevan Jones MP, Durham North
Ben Bradshaw MP, Exeter
Johnny Mercer MP, Plymouth Moor View
Marsha de Cordova MP, Battersea
Rosie Duffield MP, Canterbury
Emma Hardy MP, Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle
Paul Girvan MP, South Antrim
Cat Smith MP, Lancaster and Fleetwood
Sammy Wilson MP, East Antrim
Mike Amesbury MP, Weaver Vale
Crispin Blunt MP, Reigate
Lloyd-Russell Moyle, Brighton Kemptown
Philip Davies MP, Shipley
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