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MPs Join Relatives & Residents Association Call for New Right to Care Supporter

A cross-party coalition of MPs has joined a call from the Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) for a new legal right to ensure people can maintain contact with their family across health and care settings. Over 60 MPs have signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, in response to the severe, detrimental impact isolation from family and friends has caused.

The joint call follows a R&RA event in Parliament on 9 March, which co-chair Tracey Crouch MP described as one of the “most powerful” she has been involved in. People who have been affected by separation during the pandemic travelled to Westminster to talk to MPs about why this new right is needed. Listening to the “harrowing experiences of people unable to see loved ones”, James Wild MP said “it can’t be right that there’s a postcode lottery that leads to such cruel outcomes.”

The letter to the Secretary of State, sent on 23 May, has been coordinated by four MPs: Labour MP Dan Carden, Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, and Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts. Many more MPs have expressed their support but were unable to sign the joint letter due to their Ministerial/Shadow roles.

MPs are calling on the Secretary of State to create a new legal right which would give anyone who needs care and support access to a ‘care supporter’ – a relative or friend who can help them wherever they need it, such as in hospitals, care homes or GP surgeries. The joint letter is below.

R&RA director, Helen Wildbore, said: “MPs have sent a message loud and clear to the Government: never again should those who need support be cut off from the people they need most. The support of partners, parents, sons and daughters is not an optional extra, but vital to dignified care. The Government must answer this call to ensure the devastating harm of the past two years is never repeated.”

Letter to Secretary of State

23 May 2022

Dear Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,

We are writing this letter to highlight the harm and misery caused to people isolated within the health and care system and to request your intervention. The rights of those in care settings to maintain contact with their loved ones requires urgent codification.

Although there are some excellent examples of good practice, from which others could learn, there is too much uncertainty and variability throughout the system. There continues to be shocking instances of denial of any contact, with tragic consequences for the resident, patient or service user, and lasting damage for friends or family left behind.

These continuing failures are eroding trust across the entire system.

From hospitals to care homes, there is an urgent need for the introduction of a legal right that guarantees contact with a ‘care supporter’ – a relative or friend to provide support when it is required.

The Scottish Government is currently preparing legislation that will ensure people residing in care settings will have a legal right to maintain contact with those who are important to them. As in the rest of the UK, advisory guidance has proven ineffective at protecting the human rights of those in health and care settings.

People using services and their families have told of harrowing experiences this separation has caused – from residents who were threatened with eviction notices for highlighting Government guidance, to family members who were able to spend more time with their family members once they had passed away than they could during the last months of their life.

It is important to stress that this situation was exacerbated by, but is not exclusive to, the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, many families still experience major and traumatic difficulties when trying to support their relatives in care settings.

The mental health impact on both those in care settings, and their families, is drastic. It can also affect the wellbeing and resilience of those receiving care or treatment, thus undercutting the value of the services provided.

At our event on the 9th of March, Guaranteeing the Right to Maintain Contact, we heard from several families on the continuing inadequacy of visiting guidance.

We are grateful to the Minister for Care for attending part of this meeting, and in a letter after the event, committing the Department of Health and Social Care to ‘keeping the need for legislative options under active review.’

We believe this legal right is now even more imperative following the withdrawal of free coronavirus tests, ongoing restrictions leading to rolling lockdowns and the widespread confusion about ‘living with Covid’, as well as record infection rates.

Without a change to the guidance on outbreak management, residents will continue to remain largely isolated from family, friends, and wider society.

There is clear cross-party support for the introduction of this legal right and we would like to request a meeting to discuss our request in further detail.

Furthermore, over 30 organisations, including Mencap, Mind and Alzheimer’s Society have signified their support for such a legal right.

We look forward to your action on this timely and important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Carden MP, Liverpool Walton

Tracey Crouch MP, Chatham and Aylesford

Daisy Cooper MP, St Albans

Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Plus 57 other MPs including Ed Davey, Caroline Lucas and Diana Johnson  


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