“My Mother is dying of loneliness.” When I heard that yesterday morning I choked up and it takes a lot to upset this old cynic. Those words were spoken by Ruth Henshall on national radio. In the last year Ruth has only seen her mother on a handful of occasions and even then, only through a Perspex screen. She hasn’t been able to hug her mum, hold her hand or brush her hair. The Irish journalist John Waters told me last year that “this is wicked and those responsible should be horsewhipped.” Amen John.
Ruth’s horrifying experience has been shared by tens of thousands of children and grandchildren, left helpless by lockdown rules designed (allegedly) to protect vulnerable care home residents from infection. Invariably, when anyone bothers to ask a resident, they say that the cure is worse than the disease. They’d rather take their chances. Starving them of close contact with their loved ones is torture, by any definition.
There might be light at the end of the tunnel. A group of MP’s wants to stop this barbarism and it is barbaric. They want to make it illegal to ban indoor visits to elderly relatives in care homes. Legislation has been drafted and will be presented to Health Secretary Matt Hancock tomorrow. It proposes that it be a right, enshrined in law, of every care home resident to receive a visit from a close relative or friend.
Labour’s Harriet Harman, the chairwoman of the Commons joint committee on human rights, warned that banning visits is a breach of the Human Rights Act.
Last night she said:
“We have drafted a complete set of regulations which mean a close relative is treated the same as someone who works in the home. A relative is part of the care team and the care home must allow a visit by this person significant to the service user. Everybody has a right to a family life. That’s one of the basic human rights. You don’t stop having a right to family life just because you live in residential care, in fact family can be even more important.”
Harman said that the regulations would be published tomorrow Wednesday, fully-drafted and could be implemented without delay, if the Government agrees to them.