John’s Campaign launches legal challenge to resident trips ban
John’s Campaign has launched a legal challenge to a blanket ban on visits out of care homes by residents aged over 65 and the requirement for those who are permitted to leave the care home to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.
The ban and 14 day self-isolation requirement are part of the latest guidance issued to care homes on 8 March by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
‘Visits out of care homes’ says visits out of care homes should only be considered for care home residents of working age while current restrictions apply.
Visits out for older people should be supported in exceptional circumstances, such as to visit a friend or relative at the end of their life but in any circumstance self-isolation for 14 days afterwards is mandated, despite the relaxation of self-isolation rules in other contexts and the fact that testing and vaccinations have been widely rolled out in care homes.
In response, John’s Campaign, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DHSC to say that the imposition of a blanket ban, and the failure to communicate and ensure individualised risk assessments are taken for every resident who wishes to make a visit out, is unlawful.
The letter also questions the requirement in the guidance for any resident who takes a visit out of a care home to self-isolate on return for 14 days.
Since care homes now have rapid testing, designated visitors are permitted, residents are vaccinated, this is unnecessary, say John’s Campaign.
The campaigners pointed to individualised risk assessments, which take account of an individual resident’s specific characteristics and needs, regardless of their age, being necessary in all circumstances according to the Equality Act 2010, Human Rights Act 1998 and Care Act 2014 and should also inform decisions in relation to self-isolation requirements.
John’s Campaign, which has campaigned for the rights of families and care homes residents throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, is asking the DHSC to bring updated guidance into line so that individualised risk assessments are held for all residents, regardless of age, for visits out and so that such visits are effectively enabled wherever possible.
“The 440,000 people living in care homes include some who moved in through their own volition, with full mental capacity, never guessing that this simple freedom, enjoyed by everyone else in the population - apart from prisoners - could so easily be denied them,” said co-founder Julia Jones.
“Those who cannot make their own choices have relatives and friends who would normally be glad to take responsibility but have been excluded choices,” she added.
Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory said: “It is vital that as the rules are relaxed for the general population, care homes residents are not left behind.
“There is no reason, if appropriate precautions are taken, to prevent residents over working age from having much needed visits out and it also cannot be right that if residents do leave their homes they always have to always isolate for 14 days on their return.”