Normalising Care home visiting
The pandemic has been difficult for all of us but for residents of care homes, their family members and friends, and for the staff who look after them, it has been particularly challenging. I want to thank care sector staff for the immense contribution they have made.
I also understand the distress that has been caused to people living in care homes and their families by the restrictions which were sadly necessary during lockdown.
But we have seen huge progress, with all possible measures put in place to ensure visiting can happen safely for all concerned. Long may that continue, as seeing friends and family on a regular basis becomes a normal part of life once again in care homes.
The move to ‘beyond level 0’ on Monday will mean even more scope for residents to reconnect and engage with the people and activities that are important to them, just like you and I. Residents should enjoy, as far as safely possible, the same opportunities as other members of the public.
Many care homes are supporting regular and multiple visitors as recommended in our #OpenWithCare guidance. However this is not the case everywhere. Care homes should all now look to increase what they are offering, to ensure all residents who want it can return to a normal schedule of time with loved ones.
In practice this means taking a flexible and compassionate approach to visiting arrangements, taking into account residents’ individual needs and preferences.
This will enable people living in care homes to get back to socialising more normally and enjoying group activities such as entertainment, exercise or music therapy.
The Care Inspectorate and local oversight teams will continue to support homes to increase visiting opportunities for people.
GPs, hairdressers and chiropodists should already be going into homes but communal gatherings with school parties or choirs should currently be avoided.
On-site day services were recommended to resume from the 19 July, where possible.
We have made arrangements so that care homes can have discretion to support visitors to test themselves at home using community testing options. This reduces the burden on care homes and should help allow more frequent visits.
We want all care home residents to resume meaningful lives just like everyone else – and contact with loved ones and a busy social schedule are important parts of that.
Anyone who is reluctant to visit should be rest assured that all possible measures are in place to make visiting safe and there is support and advice should you need it.
In the longer term, local and national support will continue and we will substantially increase funding for social care by 25% as part of delivering a new National Care Service.
There are undoubtedly lessons to be learned from the pandemic and we can use some of that to build back better for the benefit of all care home residents.
Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care