UK Charities Calls for Care Home Visiting to Re-Start on March 1

UK Charities Calls for Care Home Visiting to Re-Start on March 1
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

England’s leading older person’s charity on Tuesday appealed for urgent action to restart care home visiting by the beginning of March, as many elderly residents have missed seeing loved ones for almost a year.

“Getting back to a position where everyone can receive meaningful indoor visits is a matter of safety, common decency, and fundamental human rights,” Age UK said in a joint statement with five other key organisations.

“As a first step towards a wider process of ‘opening up’, we believe that this must be in place for all residents and their essential caregivers by March 1,” the statement reads.

“If we delay any longer, many residents will have waited more than a year to see and touch their loved ones. This is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

The ban on indoor care home visits under Britain’s national lockdown rules “fails to recognize the fundamental role that relationships and love play in a resident’s wellbeing,” the charities said.

The joint statement follows the drafting of new regulations governing care home visiting by the UK’s cross-party Committee on Human Rights, which in recent days has called on the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to urgently put the regulations, which would end blanket bans on family visits, into law.

John’s Campaign, a co-signatory of the joint statement, advocates for visiting rights for people in care settings. Co-founder Julia Jones told The Epoch Times that she was particularly encouraged by the National Care Forum’s involvement in the joint statement.

“The best sort of care and the best sort of action” comes from professionals, those in need of care, and “those who love them” working together, she said.

The spectrum of organisations co-campaigning for visiting to be urgently re-started includes those advocating for relatives and residents as well as care home providers themselves.

“I feel if all of us are united on this, then nobody’s being irresponsible or flippant,“ she said. ”We are all looking from our different perspectives to what is best for the people who are living in the care homes.”

Since many of those affected by the care home visiting ban are nearing 12 months from when they were last able to do something as simple as hold their mother’s hand, Jones said, the most important part of the joint statement is its insistence on a specific date for visiting to restart.

She highlighted that though a constantly changing pandemic environment has inevitably caused anxieties, a major vaccination program has now vaccinated millions of elderly and vulnerable people, with almost all care home residents, as well as their older relatives, having been offered a vaccine.

“What is the point of this vaccination if it makes no difference to those who have been parted from one another for a year?” she asked.

‘Absolute Devotion’

Jones said that she has been struck profoundly by “the depth of attachment that some people feel” to their relatives in care homes.

“Really, I have been deeply moved by the devotion that some people have shown to their mother, their husband, their father, their sister, whoever it may be … absolute devotion,” she said.

“And I think to disregard that, to push it aside as unimportant, has really been the wickedest thing,” she added.

“We might be shouting into the void, but we are shouting, and we are shouting on behalf of many people who will be dreading the anniversary of their separation.”