A plan to encourage volunteers into Welsh care homes has attracted controversy. Families who are currently denied the right to see their loved ones are calling the scheme, announced at the end of July, an insult.
The scheme, being piloted by Age Concern (Cymru), and modelled on one operating in England, would allow volunteers to help out in care homes during the pandemic. This at a time when care homes are in a state of almost permanent lockdown.
Care homes in Wales are still under instructions from Public Health Wales to go into lockdown if a member of staff, or a resident test positive for Covid. In some cases, homes have been in a permanent state of lockdown since measures to restrict Covid were removed at the beginning of August.
This means that families have been unable to see their loved ones, many of whom are living with dementia. This latest plan is seen as an insult by families who feel that almost anybody can see their loved ones but the people closest to them.
Twitter user Tracy (@Tracy52468806) tweeted: “@agecymru you are whipping up a storm with this approach. You should be lobbying the Welsh Government to allow family visits.” Whilst user GJ (@Gkj43444846) said: “What an insult and total disregard for the residents and their families who are prevented from seeing one another. The residents want their family around them, not total stranger volunteers.”
The scheme comes after it was admitted that the requirement that all care workers were vaccinated could lead to up to 12% being lost to an already overstretched industry. The shortfall is to be made up by unpaid volunteers. Families rights advocates such as Rights for Residents point out that there are already volunteers on hand. They are called family members and if the homes were to let them would be more than happy to care for their loved ones.
Positive cases trebling
In August research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats showed that the number of Covid cases among care home staff was tripling month on month. During the four weeks to July 27 there were 14,660 positive tests among staff, and 2,047 among residents. A report in iNews tried to spin this to blame the increase on visits by family stating “restrictions were relaxed significantly in care homes to allow residents visits from an unlimited number of guests.” As Twitter user GeoffRM (@GeoffM10) pointed out “To give a balanced view.. you need to provide data on how many visitors tested positive.” Whilst @appleyardkaye made the valid point: “.. staff do live in the community..They shop, socialise, have school kids like the rest of us.”
According to government statistics there have been nearly 174,000 deaths of care home residents as a result of Covid. The Guardian revealed in May 2020 that a suppressed report found that agency staff in care homes were largely responsible for bringing the virus into care homes.
Care homes have been a political football since the outbreak of the pandemic. Government lies that they had “thrown a ring of steel around care homes” in the early days of the pandemic were rejected by care homes themselves who claimed the advice they received was “chaotic”.
Incompetence, indecision and indifference
Whilst there is a clear need to protect the vulnerable, rules which restrict the access of people living with dementia to their families are not the answer. Many of these people have a limited time left but the government through a combination of incompetence, indecision and indifference have cut them off from those who love them most. The restrictions still in place mean that families are being denied access to their loved ones, whilst staff and volunteers are able to enter care homes and potentially spread the virus which they are contracting in the communities of which they are a part.
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.