UK Government Challenged Over Legality of Guidance on Visits-out From Care Homes

UK Government Challenged Over Legality of Guidance on Visits-out From Care Homes
A care home resident talks with a carer outside a care home in Scunthorpe, northern England on May 4, 2020. (Lindsey Parnaby/AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Clark
Britain has been told by campaigners that its guidance for care home residents going out to visit friends and family amid the ongoing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic is unlawful.
On Monday, John’s Campaign, which advocates for dementia sufferers called upon the government to change its “Making a Christmas bubble with Friends and family“ and ”Visits out of care homes“ guidance because the blanket restrictions promoted in them breach the Equality, Human Rights, and Care acts.

Under the acts care providers must consider each individual’s personal needs, which should be assessed separately from anyone else’s.

John’s Campaign said in an emailed statement, however, that the government guidance “fails to accurately express the law and to advise care homes on their legal obligations to people aged over 65.”

The campaign has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking him to change the guidance to make it clear to care homes what their legal obligations are and to clarify the 14-day isolation rule for care home residents returning from a trip out.

‘Effectively Imprisoned’

“People living in care homes have been effectively imprisoned and denied these simple pleasures with the sanction of two weeks in isolation should they step outside the gates,” Julia Jones and Nicci Gerard, co-leaders of the campaign’s challenge said.

“Now they are told that only those under 65 may be considered eligible for the freedoms enjoyed routinely by the rest of the population. And if they do accept an invitation, they must be confined to their rooms for 14 days on return!”

“This is outrageous. Will care home staff who have enjoyed Christmas with their families be self-isolating for 14 days before they return to work?” they asked.

“It’s time the government and other authorities began treating these most senior citizens and their families as adults able to make their own sensible and well-informed assessments of risk and benefit—and support them in so doing,” they added.

Protracted Suspension of Visits

John’s Campaign credits itself with having already changed the government’s mind on care home visiting restrictions amid the pandemic.
In October, it raised serious concerns over the protracted suspension of visits to care homes but withdrew its application for a judicial review of restrictions when, at the start of November, the government changed its guidance addressing the key points the campaign had raised.
Its latest challenge comes following the government’s recent announcement, which it welcomed, that people who have tested negative for the CCP virus will be allowed to visit their friends and family members living in care homes in England

The campaign’s lawyer, Tessa Gregory of Leigh Day, however, said that it “once again considers the Government has published care home guidance which unlawfully ignores the requirement for individual risk assessments and applies arbitrary restrictions, this time on visits out for residents.”

Asked to comment on the challenge, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson declined to comment on any potential legal action.

He said however that the government is “making it possible for more care home residents to spend time with loved ones over the Christmas period, through the rollout of rapid testing in care homes.”

“The measures for this Christmas have been agreed UK-wide based on scientific and clinical advice on how best to minimise the risks,” he said.