John’s Campaign and the Relatives & Residents Association will apply for Core Participant Status at the public inquiry into the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic:
The campaign group and charity for families with loved ones in care homes have appointed law firm Leigh Day to make their case for representation at the inquiry, when it takes place.
Leigh Day partners Emma Jones and Tessa Gregory, both solicitors in the human rights department, have written to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Office and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to put them on notice that the organisations will be applying for Core Participant Status as soon as the process allows.
They have also called for urgent moves to be made towards setting up the public inquiry, saying: “Time is of the essence. The average life expectancy in UK care homes is 24 months, 12 months for homes with nursing. There is an urgent need for the inquiry to get under way, to provide answers to those whose lives have been most severely affected and to learn lessons before it is too late.”
In their legal letter, John’s Campaign and the Relatives & Residents Association request an urgent meeting with DHSC representatives to discuss preparations for the public inquiry, citing their experience and knowledge of the impact of the pandemic on families with loved ones in care homes, and also Leigh Day’s experience of public inquiries.
The Relatives & Residents Association provides a national, specialist helpline for expert advice on care issues for older people, and their relatives and friends.
John’s Campaign runs a UK-wide campaign supporting people separated from relatives and friends in health and care settings.
The roles have given each organisation a unique insight into the impact of the handling of the pandemic on care homes residents and their families and both have been vocal throughout the past 16 months, challenging the DHSC about the suffering caused by draconian isolation measures.
Through a series of legal challenges, John’s Campaign, led by Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard, and represented by Tessa Gregory and Carolin Ott, have forced the DHSC to change guidance to care homes in line with human rights laws.
Both organisations have outstanding concerns about the continued requirement for people living in care homes to isolate for 14 days on return from a hospital stay despite the wholesale lifting of restrictions in the rest of society since 19 July, 2021.
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, who are represented by Emma Jones, said:
“Our helpline has supported people hardest hit by the pandemic and measures taken to manage it. Through the shock of the care sector being neglected. Through the grief caused by the Government’s mismanagement of the virus. Through the anxiety of so many months of isolation and its devastating impact. Older people have been failed by the very systems designed to protect their rights. They continue to be failed and left behind in the most appalling way whilst the rest of the country gets back to normal.
“Our work has given us unique insights into the experiences of people living at the sharp end of coronavirus. We will make sure their voices are heard at the public inquiry and push for the answers families are so desperate for. ”
Julia Jones said:
“A system has been exposed where people have no right to complain without risking eviction and where walls of secrecy can be erected inside which individuals feel imprisoned and where there is frightening scope for neglect and abuse. From the DHSC and Public Health England, through the care provider organisations, local authorities, commissioners etc, people in power seem shockingly unaware of the true situation as it impinges on individuals. This is a systemic failure which the public inquiry needs to expose and remedy. John’s Campaign feel we have an important contribution to make which should be heard without delay. Many older people living in care homes have no time to waste.”
The call for John’s Campaign and the Relatives & Residents Association to be given Core Participant Status at the public inquiry into the UK Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is supported by Rights for Residents, a campaign organisation that works closely with both groups.
Jenny Morrison and Diane Mayhew of Rights For Residents said:
“Our grass roots campaign is made up of the families of residents directly affected by the inhumane visiting restrictions imposed on care homes throughout the pandemic. We have witnessed first-hand the devastating consequences the restrictions have had. Relatives who have lost loved ones, after months of enforced separation, have been left with an unbearable legacy of guilt, as they were unable to say goodbye or comfort them at the end.
“Family members are not just ‘visitors’, they offer an essential component of care that has been removed during the pandemic. From children separated from their parents, to young adults and the elderly, their distress has been unimaginable. The majority of residents are living with conditions that prevent them from understanding what is happening and why. Isolated for months in their own small rooms, they have been left feeling confused and abandoned. A public inquiry is crucial to ensure this human catastrophe never happens again.”
Emma Jones said:
“We know only too well that to ensure an Inquiry is a full, far-reaching and thorough as is required it must happen as soon as possible. Delays can lead to documents going missing and individuals’ memories fading. In addition, we know that much communication between government officials has taken place using private communications such as text messages – this Inquiry process needs to start now to ensure that the public can be given assurances that vital information cannot simply be deleted.”
Tessa Gregory said:
“Throughout the last 16 months those in care homes have suffered disproportionately both from the virus itself and the restrictions imposed. Lessons need to be learned and a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic must look urgently and fearlessly at what went wrong to ensure history never repeats itself. If the inquiry is to be effective it is imperative that our clients, who have fought to ensure the rights of residents and relatives are protected, are allowed to play a full role in the inquiry process.”