The Government’s call for people to apply for “short-term opportunities” in adult social care makes a mockery of continued restrictions surrounding care home visits, leading charities have said.
Age UK and John’s Campaign are among six organisations who this week called for residents to be allowed meaningful indoor visits with essential caregivers by March 1. They said almost a year of isolation has had a devastating impact on older people in care and urged ministers to ease restrictions.
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On the same day the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued a call urging the public to apply for “rewarding” short-term and long-term opportunities in the adult social care sector “to support care home residents and those being cared for at home”.
Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, which supports extended visiting rights for family carers of patients with dementia in hospitals, said she found the announcement “utterly infuriating”.
She told i: “To be released on the same day as our joint statement requesting access for ‘essential caregivers’ just makes a mockery of the rejection of family help. People used to sit for hours feeding, entertaining exercising their relatives – for love – yet all that was wiped out with the excuse that it increased ‘footfall’.
“Only on Monday I spent one-and-a-half hours in a care home round table meeting trying to argue for the restoration of one young man to visit, help care for and mobilise his brain-damaged screaming mother – only to be told that he would dangerously increase footfall.
“Person after person worries about the lack of stimulation and care for their disabled relatives. Then they are told that organising visits takes too much staff time because care homes are short staffed, then they offer to volunteer and are turned away because organising the DBS [criminal record] checks is too onerous. Then this. Really?”
The group’s statement calls for essential caregivers to be recognised as “central to the person’s care” and be provided with relevant PPE and testing in line with safety measures applied to staff so that they can provide the support crucial to the health and well-being of their loved one.
Officials have said care home visits can continue to take place during lockdown but with arrangements such as “outdoor visiting, substantial screens, or visiting pods” in place for safety reasons. Relatives have spoken of the distress such visits cause when residents are allowed to see their loved ones but without any contact.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “It makes no sense for the Government to be encouraging volunteers to come into care homes on the one hand, while preventing essential care givers from visiting their loved ones resident there on the other.
“This makes it all the more important that Ministers heed the call from Age UK and other charities to allow essential care givers back into care homes again from March 1, as a first step towards the more general re-opening to visitors that so many older people and their families and friends crave.
“Some have waited almost a year to be re-united so common humanity means we have to get care home visiting underway again.”
The DHSC has been approached for comment.