It aims to prevent rogue providers from banning family visits and would give residents the legal right to maintain essential supportive relationships with loved ones. It signals a major victory for the campaigning Daily Express which has fearlessly exposed a scandal magnified by Covid and the impotence of bodies with duties to protect those in care.
The Private Members’ Bill has been tabled by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.
The Labor peer said: “These shameful practices should be recognized for what they are: institutional abuse, which care homes are allowed to get away with because they have virtually all the power.”
The Bill would be the first to set out mechanisms guaranteeing those in care have reasonable access to, and support from, loved ones to address “increasingly common patterns of institutional abuse in which care homes retaliate against residents or relatives who complain by banning visits, threatening residents with eviction and sometimes evicting them”.
The Bill equalises rights contained in the Human Rights Act but would be adapted to align with the proposed Bill of Rights Act.
Last month Care Minister Helen Whately told this newspaper she was pondering new laws after being banned from visiting her mother in hospital, saying: “I want families to be able to visit their loved ones.” Yet, for many, this could come too late.
Since March official guidance has stated there should be no restrictions on access, but the voluntary code is unenforceable.
Mrs Whately claimed 200 care homes continue to refuse or limit visits, but not all 15,000 registered care homes and 250 hospital trusts fully report visiting arrangements.
For the second time in a year, this paper asked The Care Quality Commission, the care home regulator, how many requests for Essential Care Giver status had been granted and refused since restrictions ended. The CQC said it did not hold this information because it was “not within its remit”.
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said: “Lord Hunt’s Bill piles yet more pressure on the Government to act to ensure people needing care are never again isolated from the vital support of their family carers.
“With the prospect of a third Christmas separated from those most important in their lives, action cannot come soon enough.”