Please let me hug my family before it's too late!

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After ten long and torturous months many of those living in care are still not allowed to hug or hold the hand of those they love. Even more shocking, the majority are denied visits unless they take place behind a window or floor to ceiling prison style screen.

What started as a temporary solution has tragically and unacceptably become the norm. The Government and the majority of care home owners now view relatives solely as a source of potential infection.

The Government has given every other member of society the freedom to form a social bubble and decide the level of risk they are prepared to take in order to maintain a level of contact with their family. No such freedom has been granted to those living in care and this appalling breach of human rights continues with no end in sight.

My name is Jenny. My mum Jean lives in a care home and has advanced Alzheimer's Dementia. The lack of meaningful contact has left her feeling like a prisoner although she's committed no crime.  Mum's physical and mental health have deteriorated rapidly and like many others she’s now a shadow of her former self.

Many Local Authorities and care homes continue to impose blanket bans on visiting,  ignoring the damage to the mental health and well being of residents and their families. In December the Government responded to a huge national campaign and stated that care homes must balance the risk of contracting Covid against the huge deterioration in mental health resulting from isolation. Government advice to care homes was that regardless of Tier restrictions - and except in the event of an outbreak - "they should seek to enable indoor visits where the visitor has been tested and returned a negative result."

However, having published new National Lockdown Rules they have now issued advice that contradicts their own revised guidance and have recommended that visits be once again restricted to screen and window visits only. In the UK between 400 and 600 care home residents die every day, having spent their last months, weeks, days and hours feeling alone and abandoned. As time is not on their side many residents will never see their loved ones again.

In December Campaigners welcomed the Government's instruction to care providers to use the tests they’d been given to facilitate meaningful contact and yet many refuse to do so, even in Tiers 1 to 3. The Prime Minister also promised that all care home residents would be able to hug and hold the hands of their loved ones by Christmas - and that every resident would be allowed two visits per week from two family members. That promise, along with many hearts has been broken.

The majority of care providers have openly ignored the guidance while the Government continue to look the other way and produce yet more confusing updates. Vulnerable residents are held hostage as care providers dictate their own rules, completely free of consequences or accountability. The Prime Minister and his Government seem content to preside over this human rights catastrophe, claiming they have no power to intervene. Meanwhile families who have lost loved ones after months of enforced separation have been left with an unbearable legacy of grief and guilt.

This is a gross infringement of our loved ones right to a famiIy life. It's been acknowledged that those previously shielding in the community suffered greatly with their mental health - as a result of isolation - and have been told they won't be asked to do this again. We demand the same rights for those living in care settings. Why does the mental health and well being of those living in care not matter?

We're calling on the government to do everything in their power to end this suffering with immediate effect as vulnerable people continue to die in a pandemic of loneliness and isolation. On the 10th July Matt Hancock said that he really wanted to find a way to reunite families with loved ones. Ten months into the pandemic the majority of over 400,000 residents and their families are still waiting to be reunited.

As the leader of a civilised country we demand that Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock urgently intervene to end this barbaric situation. As they have done successfully in Canada it is within their power to enshrine in law the role of family carers as an essential component of care. This would guarantee them access regardless of lockdown, tier restrictions or outbreaks. After ten months of delay we call on the Government to take the following immediate actions:

  • Pass emergency legislation to enshrine the right of an "essential family carer in law" 
  • Remove the inappropriate and distressing time restrictions on visits
  • Vaccinate all those living in care settings - of all ages - as an absolute priority to end isolation

Charities have highlighted the thousands of excess deaths resulting from loneliness and separation, as people simply give up the will to live, without stimulation and the comfort of family contact. Many are exercising the only choice they have left, which is to stop eating and drinking. Politicians from ALL parties have a responsibility to stem the tide of premature deaths. Don't wait till this atrocity becomes too big to ignore and then call for a public inquiry. Act now, save lives and do "whatever it takes" to avoid another Tsunami of care home fatalities.

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