Visiting and Covid-19: Legal duties for care staff

Featured article - 19 August 2021
By Helen Wildbore, Director, Relatives and Residents Association

Care with masks

The past 18 months have been the most challenging period ever faced by the care sector. People using care services have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and measures taken to manage it. Whilst the rest of the country has seen restrictions lifted, people living in care are still subject to guidance setting out which kind of visitors they can have, and how much contact they can have with them. This is causing significant harm to older people. Our Helpline hears daily about people’s mental and physical health declining as a result of isolation from family and friends.

It has been an incredibly challenging period for care staff too, who have been expected to step in and fill gaps left by other professionals who have kept away from care settings during the pandemic.

What we're being told

Consistent themes coming through our helpline are of closed cultures becoming embedded across some care settings, and of legal rights being overlooked in favour of non-statutory guidance.

That’s why we developed an information tool for care providers explaining which of their legal duties are relevant to decisions about visiting. Visiting and the Law: A guide for care homes during COVID-19 aims to support care staff by:

  • Mapping the different types of visiting in the Government guidance to legal duties under the Care Act, Human Rights Act, Equality Act, Mental Capacity Act and the CQC Regulations
  • Providing pointer questions to help staff review their own policies
  • Exploring worked examples on common issues we encounter on our helpline, to spark discussions amongst staff on their own practice

The guide is written to be accessible and practical, to assist care staff to understand their legal duties and respect the rights of those they care for. We are also hearing that the guide is helpful for residents and their families, empowering them about the law to assist with discussions with care homes.

In times of crisis, it’s more important than ever that we turn to our laws, to help us find a way through. We hope our guide will help you to do that.

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