Boris Johnson was last night urged to give the elderly a ‘ray of hope’ by allowing families to see loved ones in care homes next month.
A coalition of charities banded together to write an open letter to the PM calling on him to allow visits by relatives from the beginning of March ‘for the sake of humanity’.
And they said his roadmap out of lockdown, published next week, should announce that this step would be followed by the relaxation of the rules to allow access to all relatives and friends.
Thousands of older people have been unable to see or embrace their relatives for over a year because of the pandemic.
The charities, including Age UK and the National Care Forum, say this is having a devastating effect on their mental health. And they insist that, with virus cases falling, now is the time to consider allowing visits.
A coalition of charities have banded together to write an open letter to Boris Johnson calling on him to allow visits to care homes by relatives from the beginning of March ‘for the sake of humanity’ [Stock image]
The six charities said the lockdown restrictions should first be lifted for ‘essential care givers’ – family members and friends who give the most support. They are recognised by local authorities and are given access to personal protective equipment (pictured) and virus testing in line with official care home staff [File photo]
It has also emerged that the official regulator, the Care Quality Commission, will carry out inspections if care homes impose blanket bans when lockdown has finished.
The Daily Mail has been campaigning to allow care home residents to see relatives. In their open letter, the six charities write: ‘We are united in our view that for the sake of humanity care home visiting needs to resume.’
They said the lockdown restrictions should first be lifted for ‘essential care givers’ – family members and friends who give the most support.
They are recognised by local authorities and are given access to personal protective equipment and virus testing in line with official care home staff. The charities said this should be the ‘first step towards reopening care homes to visiting by everyone as soon as possible thereafter’.
The letter told Mr Johnson: ‘We are writing to you today to implore you to include a commitment to reopening care homes to visiting by essential care givers on March 1 within the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown you are reported as being due to publish on or around February 22.
‘For hundreds of thousands of older people living in care homes and their families – in many cases kept apart now for almost a year – this is the ray of hope they are longing for. Please give it to them.’
Hunt hits out as social care plan gets kicked into long grass
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt attacked ministers yesterday after they said no social care reforms would be brought forward until the end of the year.
Mr Hunt, chairman of the Commons health select committee, said the Government must act now after numerous ‘false dawns’.
In a letter to care minister Helen Whately, he wrote: ‘It is very disappointing that the Government has failed to engage with our call to commit to increasing investment in social care by £7billion a year.’
He added: ‘The pandemic has shone its cruel light on failings in our social care system so it really is now or never for reform.’
Boris Johnson pledged a social care plan when he became Prime Minister in July 2019, but it has been delayed.
The letter is signed by Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum and Jenny Morrison, of Rights for Residents.
Other signatories include writers Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones, founders of John’s Campaign which fights for the right for relatives to spend time with dementia sufferers; Helen Wildbore of the Relatives and Residents Association; and Ian Turner of the Registered Nursing Homes Association.
They said: ‘As we see coronavirus case numbers falling, we appeal for urgent and united action to reopen care homes.
‘Getting back to a position where everyone can receive meaningful indoor visits is a matter of safety, common decency and fundamental human rights.’
The letter adds: ‘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 absence of meaningful indoor visiting fails to recognise the fundamental role that relationships and love play in a resident’s wellbeing.
‘We want mother and daughter, father and son, life-time partners, close friends and neighbours to be confident that within weeks they can be reunited and be made whole again.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said last night: ‘We are acutely aware of the importance of visits for everyone involved.
‘Visits can continue to take place with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, or visiting pods.
‘While the vaccines provide protection from serious disease, we do not yet know if they prevent someone from passing on the virus to others.
‘This means it is still important to follow the visiting guidance.
‘We will do everything possible to enable close contact visits the moment it is safe to do so.’