Give us legal right to ‘meaningful’ care home visits, urges campaigner

Max McLean, PA

A woman who has not been able to visit her 91-year-old mother since November has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give families a legal right to “meaningful” contact with loved ones in care homes.

Among the Government’s plans for loosening lockdown in England are new rules allowing care home residents to hold hands with a nominated loved one from March 8.

But Sharon Clay, 65, from Hornchurch in east London, warned that any guidance needs to include the legal right for family members to be treated as essential carers.

“We’ve not got any hope that a lot of care homes will do anything but ignore the guidance again,” claimed Ms Clay, whose mother June lives in a care home.

June Clay
June Clay has been unable to see her daughter since November (Sharon Clay/PA)

“Just waving at someone through a plastic screen, or even if you go in and grab their hands for 15 minutes and you’re kicked out again, it’s not meaningful,” she told the PA news agency.

“By the time they’ve worked out who you are, you’re being told to go. It’s got to be meaningful visits, it’s got to be that we can spend quality time with them and on a regular basis.”

Ms Clay, who is working as a volunteer at vaccine centres, is part of the Rights for Residents Facebook group, which has pushed for relatives of care home residents to be able to safely visit.

She said her mother, who she used to see “for at least four to five hours a day” is “absolutely shutting down”, having gone three months without seeing her daughter.

Ms Clay also called for “at least two” family members to be allowed to share visiting rights.

“I’m the closest to my mum in distance et cetera, but emotionally she’s really closer to my brother.

“She will have to choose which one person she will want to see for whatever brief time.

“It breaks their heart, it breaks our heart. We’re no further forward as far as I’m concerned.”

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