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Government delays response to families deprived of visits to dementia relatives in care homes

Dementia support campaigners have reacted with fury as Government lawyers delayed their response to a call to tackle the issue of visiting relatives in care homes.

Elderly woman looking out the window

23 September 2020

John’s Campaign said a letter from the Department of Health and Social Care saying they were “extremely busy dealing with the pandemic” was incomprehensible.
 
They said widespread local lockdowns and blanket bans of families visiting relatives in care homes have radically worsened an already pain-filled situation.
 
John’s Campaign, led by Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones, wrote to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock earlier this month to challenge the legality of guidance to care homes about allowing visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
They said the lack of clarity offered by the guidance had resulted in many care homes imposing blanket bans on visits by family members.
 
John’s Campaign gave Mr Hancock until 23 September to reply, or they would seek permission for a judicial review of the guidance, claiming it is unlawful because it fails to require individualised risk assessments in breach of equality and human rights law. 
 
Now the Government Legal Department has replied to say that because of the pandemic they haven’t had anyone available to deal with the letter and will aim to respond by 30 September.
 
Nicci and Julia said:
 
“What? This is the pandemic. No other group of people needs such urgent attention or help. No other sector of society has been dealt with so badly.
 
“People living in care homes are approaching their last days. Their time is precious.
 
“We find it incomprehensible that the government is, yet again, delaying any kind of positive action that might help the thousands of people whose liberties have been curtailed and whose lives have been blighted since March.”
 
Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory, who is representing John’s Campaign and sent the pre-action protocol letter on its behalf, said:
 
“Under the civil procedure rules the Government is obliged to respond substantively to a letter before claim within 14 days and its failure to do so in this case, given what is at stake, is unacceptable.
 
“Our client understands that time is of the essence and calls upon Matt Hancock to urgently act to address the anguish of the thousands unable to visit their loved ones in care homes.”

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