Government too 'busy' dealing with coronavirus to review care home visits

Families calling for clearer guidance on care home visits have been told the government has not been able to respond to them because it is "very busy with 'urgent policy work'". Credit: PA

Families calling for clearer guidance on care home visits have been told the government has not been able to respond to them because it is "very busy with 'urgent policy work'".

John's Campaign wrote to the Secretary of State two weeks ago, arguing that the current rules in England are leading to blanket bans on visits in many homes, causing huge distress and breaching human rights law.

They want care homes to take into account each resident's individual situation before deciding whether or not a visit can go ahead, with thousands of people in care having gone six months without seeing any family at all.



But replying to a legal letter from John's Campaign, setting out the case for a judicial review of the rules unless they are changed, government solicitors said they were unable to provide a full response within the two week timeframe because the Department for Health and Social Care was too busy.

The letter, seen by ITV News, reads: "As you will no doubt appreciate, clients in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) are already extremely busy dealing with the pandemic.

"The pandemic has imposed, and continues to impose, extraordinary demands on the resources of the DHSC, and significantly limits the availability of key individuals whose input is necessary to provide instructions and approval in responding to your correspondence.

"Further, clients that we are relying on for instructions have been diverted and are fully occupied with urgent policy work."

John's Campaign argue the current rules breach equality and human rights law and want the government to change them or face a judicial review. They fear that many residents with dementia and other conditions are deteriorating far more quickly without seeing their families.

Clients in the Department for Health and Social Care are already extremely busy dealing with the pandemic.

Department for Health and Social Care

The campaign's founders Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard said: "People living in care homes are approaching their last days.

"Their time is precious...

"We find it incomprehensible that the government is, yet again, delaying any kind of positive action that might help the thousands of people whose liberties have been curtailed and whose lives have been blighted since March."

Current guidance in England says it is down to local authorities and care home providers to decide whether or not to facilitate visits.

Last week, ITV News reported how several councils had decided to ban visits again, given the rising cases of Covid-19.

Visits are already banned in areas with local lockdowns.

Tuesday's announcement by the Prime Minister that new coronavirus restrictions are likely to last six months has filled many families with dread at the prospect of not seeing their loved ones in care homes for as long as a year in total.

Government solicitors have now promised to respond to campaigners by September 30, but it is unlikely that the guidance on visits will be relaxed when the government is tightening up the rules in other areas.