Last reviewed 4 May 2021

Campaigners have warned that too many care homes are restricting visits unnecessarily, with many larger care home providers failing to follow the latest Government guidance on visits to residents.

Residents’ groups are calling on the UK Government to enshrine visits for essential carers in law. More than 225,000 people have signed a petition calling for the right to be guaranteed, here.

Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall is supporting the call, while the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) Chair Harriet Harman has proposed legislation that would ensure every resident has access to an “essential care giver” as an extension of the paid care team.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which can challenge care providers for breaches of the Equalities Act, also told Parliament last week, here, that it “would not rule out litigation” if it could identify “a serious or systemic breach” and it considers that its action “would achieve a successful outcome.”

Currently, there is no statutory force behind the recent Government guidance, which set out the right of every resident to nominate two named regular visitors and that individualised risk assessments should be completed for more vulnerable residents to allow an “essential care giver” to provide frequent support.

Relatives are saying there is great distress that some care homes are not offering essential care giver status and that nominated visitors are being given extremely limited access. Campaigners said that, because the guidance is advisory only, many care homes are choosing to ignore it with no consequence.

The Care Quality Commission told the JCHR last month that it was “aware of a growing number of concerns about possible blanket bans”. Liz Kendall said: “There was a big fanfare about (care home visits) coming back, but for many it’s either not happening or it’s not meaningful. Family is integral to our physical and mental wellbeing.”

But Care England Chief Executive Martin Green warned that it was wrong to put visiting above resident safety and did not agree with making visits a legal right. He said: “We have lost over 30,000 people in care settings (from Covid-19) and it’s all very well talking about human rights but you don’t have any human rights if you are dead.”

He added: “If we had a new variant and it was enshrined in law that (essential care givers could come and go), it would put people at grave risk.”

The Rights For Residents campaign is available at: https://www.change.org/p/please-let-me-hug-my-family-before-it-s-too-late?use_react=false.