From today (4th May 2021), care home residents in England are allowed to go out on low-risk trips without having to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards.
‘Low-risk trips’ include outdoor activities, such as going for a walk or sitting in a park or garden. However, residents must follow social distancing rules and be accompanied by a member of staff or nominated visitor.
They are also not allowed to meet in groups and are not permitted to stay overnight anywhere but their residence. Like the rest of the population, care home residents can only go indoors for the use of toilets. They are also permitted to go inside in order to cast a vote in the upcoming local elections.
In Scotland the rules are very similar to England, while in Wales, residents can only leave their home without isolating if there is no Covid outbreak in their area. In Northern Ireland, the rules vary by region.
Families felt frustrated they were unable to see their loved ones for more than a year
The rule change comes after families of those in care homes felt frustrated that they were still unable to see their family members despite the easing of restrictions.
Jenny Morrison co-founded the group Rights for Residents in response to the “inhumane” restrictions in care homes. Jenny also started a petition called “Please let me hug my family before it’s too late” which will be delivered to the UK government later today. The petition now has over 200,000 signatures.
Jenny writes: “After thirteen long and torturous months many of those living in care settings are still not allowed to hug those they love or enjoy a visit outdoors to enjoy the Spring sunshine. Even more shocking, many are still denied meaningful visits with their families.
“Rights For Residents are calling on the Government to adopt the emergency legislation proposed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights that would ensure every resident has access to an Essential Care Giver that is seen as an extension of the paid care team. Family members are not "just" visitors, they offer an essential component of care that has been removed during the pandemic. No matter how wonderful care staff are they cannot provide the emotional support that can only come from a family member as we are the eyes, ears, voices and memories of our loved ones.”
It is now "much safer" for care home residents to go outside, according to the government
The government agreed to the change due to a significant drop in Covid cases, which means it is now “much safer” for care home residents to go outside. This is largely due to the success of the vaccination roll-out, which has seen 95% of elderly residents receive one dose of the vaccine and 71% receive two.
However, campaigners now want the rule change to become legally binding rather than just guidance. As currently, some care homes are ignoring the advice and continuing to prevent family visits and days out.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We know how challenging this time has been for care home residents, so I am pleased that they can now leave their homes to reunite with their loved ones outdoors.
"With the data continuing to head in the right direction, and as restrictions ease, it is my priority to keep increasing visits for residents in the coming weeks in a safe and controlled way."
The rules for care home residents will be reviewed again on the 17th May, when the next stage of the government's roadmap is reached.