Advocating for the rights of people who live in care homes
By Sharon Horne, Advocacy Manager
Over the bank holiday weekend the Government announced that restrictions placed on care home residents will be eased and the Advocacy team at Your Voice Counts cannot welcome this move enough.
Your Voice Counts advocates work closely with people who are living in care homes who lack capacity to agree to reside there for the purpose of receiving care and treatment. We engage with these people so we can promote their wishes, wants and rights and we’ve been concerned about the differences we’ve seen in relation to how care homes have operated their policies around residents having the freedom to leave their home.
Some care homes, for example, have used an individual risk assessment approach taking into account residents’ circumstances, needs and capacity whereas others imposed a blanket ban, forcing residents to self-isolate for 14 days if they left their home for any reason other than an urgent medical situation.
To put this into a human rights context, I have been able to go to a shop, park, friend’s garden etc, socially distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding direct contact with anyone as far as practicable. I have also had both of my Covid injections and undertake regular lateral flow tests meaning I am as safe as anyone can be at this time. However, a person in the exact same position, who has also been vaccinated, tested and follows all the guidelines but who lives in a care home, has not been able to visit that shop, park, friend’s garden etc without a 14 day self-isolation period imposed on their return.
Putting the rights, needs and wishes of the individual is at the heart of our advocacy service so this inconsistent and unequal approach felt uneasy to us, particularly in light of some situations where Best Interest Assessors have approved assessments in the knowledge that people have been restricted in this unfair way.
Over recent weeks, we’ve been raising our concerns at a local level and exploring how we can challenge these deprivations of liberty, either through a 21A challenge or human rights application, always putting the best interests of our clients at the heart of our work.
The news that care home residents can now no longer be restricted by such policies is a positive development and something we know many of our clients will appreciate. We hope this move, along with the media attention it’s received, will help raise awareness of the inequalities that exist for vulnerable groups and move forward the conversation around the rights and wishes of people with learning disabilities and mental health needs.