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Chair urges Care Minister and CQC to redouble efforts to end blanket bans on care home visits

5 November 2021

The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriett Harman MP, has called on the Government and Care Quality Commission to take swift action to protect the human rights of residents and patients in care settings and end needless blocks on family visits.

As part of its inquiry into protecting human rights in care settings, the Joint Committee invited members of the public to take part in a survey to give an up-to-date picture of experiences in care environments. Their responses have revealed serious concerns that restrictions brought in due to the Covid-19 pandemic were still being applied indiscriminately and family members barred from seeing loved ones. In some cases, residents were threatened with eviction when relatives complained.

In two letters published today, the Joint Committee has called on the Government to review its guidelines to ensure that meaningful visits are facilitated by care providers, subject to individualised risk assessments. It further calls on the Care Quality Commission to ensure action is taken when providers fail to support visits and for better mechanisms to be put in place for residents, patients and relatives to raise concerns themselves.

The Joint Committee’s report into care homes and visiting restrictions, published in May 2021, found that blanket bans on care home visits were a contravention of the human rights of residents, particularly the right to family life. It called on the Government to put into law protections for care home residents deprived of family visits. In the correspondence published today, the Joint Committee urges the Government to revisit the draft legislation it put forward.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, said:

“The Joint Committee on Human Rights has received heart-rending evidence from relatives and patients that indiscriminate restrictions on visiting in care homes remain in place and families are still being prevented from visiting their loved ones.

“Family visits are not optional, they are absolutely essential for the quality of life of people in care homes. Whilst care home staff continue to do an incredible job keeping residents safe during the pandemic, for too many families and their loved ones these restrictions are a deeply painful breach of their right to family life.

“The JCHR has drafted legislation that would enshrine protections for care home residents in law. In light of the evidence that guidance is still not being followed, the CQC must establish better processes for data collection and monitoring of the rights of residents to receive visitors and the Government must take action to safeguard rights and introduce new laws. Human rights cannot be selectively applied and the failure to place the right to visit on a statutory basis means people in care continue to be subject to arbitrary restrictions that would never be accepted outside of a care setting.”

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Image: Unsplash/Dominik Langel