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John’s Campaign and Care Rights UK lawyers raise questions for witnesses at Welsh Administration module of Covid Inquiry

Lawyers representing John’s Campaign and Care Rights UK have raised questions for witnesses at Module 2B of the Covid Inquiry, which is due to be held from Tuesday 27 February to Thursday 14 March 2024 at Mercure Cardiff North Hotel in Cardiff.

Posted on 23 February 2024

John’s Campaign and Care Rights UK – formerly known as the Relatives and Residents Association – have Core Participant Status at Module 2B, which will focus on decisions by the devolved Welsh Government between March 2020 and May 2022.

Represented by human rights partners Tessa Gregory and Emma Jones and solicitor Carolin Ott at law firm Leigh Day, the Core Participants will highlight their concerns about the core decision making by the Welsh Government and the impact of those decisions on those needing and providing care in the hope that this will help progress the Inquiry and ensure important lessons are learnt.

Module 2B will examine decision making of key groups and individuals in the Welsh Government, including the First Minister and other Welsh Ministers. 

As Core Participants, John’s Campaign and Care Rights UK are able to review evidence, make submissions to the Inquiry and suggest lines of questioning to be pursued at hearings. They have participated in preliminary hearings for Module 2B, highlighting the importance of considering the rights of older people and disabled people during the Inquiry process.

John’s Campaign and Care Rights UK have made submissions to the Inquiry making it clear that the Inquiry should examine the issue of indirect harm caused by Covid restrictions, particularly on those needing and providing care. For instance, there is evidence that the Welsh Government was aware of the particular risk of restrictions on people with dementia, but how was that reflected in decision making? 

There appears to have been a failure to consider the rights of older people and disabled people. 

There also appears to have been insufficient consideration of those receiving care outside health and care settings, and of unpaid carers who make up the vast majority of carers in the UK. 

The groups have asked the Inquiry to consider to what extent core decision making was based on evidence, since data collection appears to have been poorly co-ordinated, particularly in relation to social care. They have also raised questions around the care sector’s role in decision making, including to what extent experts were consulted and whether the needs of the care sector were understood. 

Inconsistent and conflicting guidance is a key area that the groups want to address. They point to a Care Home Compliance Director who was provided with different sets of guidance from the Government, the local authority and Public Health Wales. 

They have also asked the Inquiry to pay special attention to what consideration was given to equality and human rights laws, because a diminished role for regulatory bodies meant there was less oversight in place. 

John’s Campaign, led by Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard, works across the UK to support people separated from their loved ones in health and care settings. 

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, John’s Campaign waged a legal campaign for the rights of family members to visit and be involved in the care of their loved ones in care homes. Represented by Tessa Gregory and Carolin Ott, the charity convinced the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to change guidance to care homes in line with human rights laws. 

Care Rights UK focuses on defending the rights of people in care. The charity runs a national, specialist helpline for expert advice on care issues for older people and their relatives and friends. Through the Rights For Residents campaign, it is calling – alongside John’s Campaign – for a new legal right to a Care Supporter so that no-one is ever again isolated from the essential support of relatives or friends in health and care settings.

It supported John’s Campaign in its legal campaign which included two applications to the High Court which were withdrawn after guidance was changed. The charity, led by Helen Wildbore, provided a national voice for families whose loved ones were isolated in care homes during the pandemic because of severe visiting restrictions. 

When making the decision to grant the two groups core participant status at Module 2B, the Chair said: 

“I consider that the Applicants jointly are well placed to assist the Inquiry in Module 2B as to whether those whose interests they represent, including those requiring care and those providing such care, were considered as part of the process of core political and administrative decision making in response to Covid-19.” 

Julia Jones of John’s Campaign said: 

"Unlike Scotland, Wales is not running an inquiry of its own. This therefore is the one chance to look hard at the way people in Wales who needed care - whether in care homes, hospitals, mental health units or at home - were considered by the policy makers. These were the people who were known to be most vulnerable and whose well-being should have been a matter of central concern. John's Campaign contends that they were largely ignored, with lasting damage both to themselves and the families who loved them"

Helen Wildbore of Care Rights UK said:

“People needing care have been too often neglected, overlooked and left behind during the pandemic. Four years on, it is now urgent that their voices are heard and lessons learnt in Wales, as well as across the whole of the UK. We cannot change the past, but we must ensure the suffering caused never happens again."

 Emma Jones said:

“In order for this to be a full and effective investigation the Inquiry must not shy away from examining the decisions that were made in what we know was a difficult time for everyone. The simple fact is these decisions had tragic and far-reaching consequences and, sadly, through our work with our Core Participants we believe that little, if any, thought was given to those needing or providing care.”

Carolin Ott said:

“Those needing and providing care were some of the groups worst hit by the pandemic and its response. They should have received far greater and more urgent attention from decision makers but were neglected instead. In circumstances where the views and evidence of those receiving and providing care were not taken into account during the pandemic, it is all the more important that those voices are now properly listened to in order to ensure lessons are learned.”

Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Emma runs the team working on the contaminated blood inquiry 

Tessa Gregory
Corporate accountability Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Tessa Gregory

Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases

Carolin Ott
Human rights Judicial review

Carolin Ott

Carolin Ott is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.