A 100-year-old care home resident has issued a video plea for greater freedom, complaining that thousands of people can go to pop festivals but she is being prevented from seeing two of her children at her home in Yorkshire.
Frances Heaton said “human rights and equality are out of order altogether”, as 240,000 people signed a petition demanding a new law ending isolation for care home residents, with many saying care operators are still refusing to follow government advice on facilitating visits and are imposing their own stricter regimes. The petition is titled: “Please let me hug my family before it’s too late!".
Government guidance is that every care home resident in England can have an unlimited number of “named visitors” who will be able to enter the care home for regular visits after negative tests and they can also nominate one essential care giver who undergoes regular testing who may visit the home to attend to essential care needs.
Hundreds of families are to protest in Westminster next week over restrictions on residents’ access to their families in care homes and the lack of legal visiting rights after 18 months of lockdowns. The protest, organised by the Rights for Residents campaign group, will be led by the actor Ruthie Henshall, whose mother, Gloria, died recently after isolation in a care home that allowed only “window visits”.
Among those attending will be Lesley Lightfoot, who described her 90-year-old mother’s home in London as “a fortress”. The group wants visiting rights enshrined in a new “Gloria’s law” and say they are being inundated with reports of restrictions on visits that breach government guidance, which says visits should be allowed after negative tests.
“My name is Frances,” Heaton said in the message from her room. “I was 100 years old in March. Dopo 18 months of being shut out from the outsider world my daughter can now see me in my room. But my other daughter and my son are not allowed in my room. Ma 90,000 people can visit the Leeds Festival. Human rights and equality are out of order altogether.”
Her daughter, Linda Barley, disse: “It doesn’t make sense. I can go and have a coffee in Sainsbury’s with her, but my brother and sister can’t visit her. My mum is crying to me on the phone. She wants fresh air and she wants exercise. It’s absolutely horrendous.”
The protest comes amid widespread anger that the government’s social care reform proposals this week will do little to help the immediate crisis in care homes, in which threadbare staffing is making providing visitor access harder.
Jenny Morrison, the co-founder of Rights for Residents, disse: “Some people are paying £8,000 a month [in care fees] and haven’t got the right to decide who comes into their home. We feel that if social care is going to be reformed, they should look at the rights of people in care homes and the responsibilities of people that look after them.”
Barley said this week’s funding announcements were “irrelevant if residents are having their rights disregarded and [e] care homes are choosing to do what they want”.
Helen Whately, the care minister, was asked on Thursday why the government did not make visiting a legal right.
She told Talk Radio: “This has been one of the hardest things of the pandemic – trying to work out how we can keep residents of care homes as safe as possible while knowing that visiting is so important. There are heartbreaking stories where husbands and wives have not been able to see each other for months because of the visiting restrictions.”
She said it was important to think through the unintended consequences of legislation and said family members who could not visit their relatives could raise that with the Care Quality Commission.