The cruellest separation of all: Families of disabled children were promised care home hugs but are heartbroken after being banned from seeing them over Christmas
Distraught parents have been banned from seeing their disabled children in care homes over the festive period.
Having been unable to hug their vulnerable children for ten cruel months, thousands of families hoped they would finally be reunited at Christmas.
But ‘barbaric and inhumane’ guidelines, combined with rising virus cases, mean many care homes for young adults have shut their doors to visitors.
Instead, some vulnerable young adults will spend Christmas trapped and alone in their rooms, forbidden from even waving at parents or siblings through a window.
Parents have described their anguish after stocking up on presents for their children, only to have the promise of a Christmas visit snatched away.
‘It feels like we’re in a black hole’
Brett Martin, 55, has not cuddled Charlotte, 33, since March – and she is so distraught she spends her days hugging a huge pillow with his photograph on
For Brett Martin, not seeing his daughter on Christmas Day is an unbearable price to pay for the pandemic.
Mr Martin, 55, has not cuddled Charlotte, 33, since March – and she is so distraught she spends her days hugging a huge pillow with his photograph on.
After the Daily Mail highlighted his situation last month, Mr Martin had hoped he’d finally be able to see Charlotte for Christmas. Now he has been told that he will have to settle for a video call with his daughter, who has a rare genetic condition called Rett syndrome.
Mr Martin, from Minster, Kent, said: ‘It feels like we’re in a dark hole we can’t get out of.
‘I’m still having video chats with Charlotte most days but I can see that it’s really straining her now. Christmas is a very big family time for us and we’d usually always go and see Charlotte in her home and bring her presents.
‘Christmas is a very sensory time of year, which is very important to Charlotte. She loves all the smells, visuals and tastes associated with it.’
Mr Martin was expecting to see Charlotte in December after her home started rolling out rapid lateral flow tests. But a staff member – who lives in a separate house to Charlotte – tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Martin is frustrated that his daughter cannot be tested for the virus or even quarantined before Christmas.
He is now hoping to see her on January 11 though he worries that the visit might not go ahead. ‘It feels like the carrot keeps moving further and further away,’ Mr Martin said.
Some fear the continuing pandemic restrictions mean they could end up going a whole year without seeing them in person.
Earlier this month, in a major victory for the Daily Mail, the Department of Health announced the roll out of millions of tests for care home visitors.
Following this newspaper’s campaign, the Government also issued guidelines saying indoor visits should be the ‘default’ which enabled thousands of emotional reunions.
However, visiting has been hampered by a growing row between central government and councils, some of which are refusing to use the tests.
And last night campaigners warned that thousands of young adults in care have become forgotten victims because the ‘one-size-fits-all guidance’ was designed with older adults in mind.
Back in lockdown…
Alexandra Arthur, 32, who is severely disabled, used to spend every weekend with her parents from Ashford, Kent. But she has seen her mother four times since March and her father (John, pictured with her) just once
Linda and John Arthur haven’t hugged their daughter Alexandra since February, but hoped they would at least see each other on Christmas Day.
Now they have been told they can’t be reunited until mid-January at the earliest – not even for a window or socially distant garden visit – after an outbreak put the home in lockdown for a month.
Alexandra, 32, who is severely disabled, used to spend every weekend with her parents from Ashford, Kent. But she has seen her mother four times since March and her father just once.
Mrs Arthur said that even after outbreaks, guidelines could be changed to allow garden or window visits. She added: ‘Just so she knows I’m still here.’
Stranded: Alexandra Arthur has seen her father John only once since March
Under Government rules, under-65s in care homes can join one household in a ‘festive bubble’ over the Christmas period.
But this is an option only if they self-isolate in their room for 14 days on their return, which charities say is ‘simply impossible’ for the majority of disabled or autistic adults in care.
Many other families have fallen victim to rules that mean whole care homes must lock down for 28 days after only a single case.
It means families who were gearing up for visits over Christmas have now been told they can’t see their loved ones until mid-January at the earliest.
Parents say there is ‘no end in sight’ to their nightmare because, unlike elderly residents who are top of the list, young adults in care are not being prioritised for the vaccine.
The Government’s vaccine priority list does not include younger adults with learning disabilities or autism, despite Public Health England data showing that they are up to six times more likely to die from Covid-19.
Isolation is barbaric and inhumane
Charlie Gray, 20, is severely autistic and unable to read or speak, but he is physically fit and healthy. Throughout the pandemic, he has continued to attend a special needs college, yet he is not allowed out to see his family. (Above, with his mother, Vanessa)
Vanessa Gray has never spent a Christmas without her son Charlie, 20.
But this year they will be torn apart because of ‘barbaric and inhumane’ rules forcing anyone who leaves care homes to isolate for two weeks on their return.
Charlie is severely autistic and unable to read or speak, but he is physically fit and healthy. Before lockdown he would stay with his mother in Battersea, south-west London, every weekend.
Throughout the pandemic, he has continued to attend a special needs college, yet he is not allowed out to see his family. Mrs Gray said: ‘I’ve already agreed with my husband that we are not putting up a single decoration or celebrating Christmas Day unless Charlie is with us.
‘To have him home for Christmas, Charlie would have to self-isolate for two weeks on return to the care home. That is not an option for us.
‘That means shutting up perfectly healthy, mentally handicapped young adults in their rooms for two weeks. What sane parent would subject their adult child to that? It’s utterly barbaric.’
Last night campaigners called for an urgent review of rules requiring under-65s to self-isolate for two weeks so that they could see their families at Christmas.
Tim Nicholls, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, said: ‘These rules will mean thousands of autistic people living in residential care won’t be able to spend Christmas with their families.
‘Isolating for 14 days is simply impossible for people who need routines and lots of support to stay safe.’
Diane Mayhew, from campaign group Rights for Residents, said: ‘Thousands of parents were promised they would be able to hug their children this Christmas. They bought their children Christmas presents. But now that promise has been broken.
‘The damage from being torn apart from your children for ten months is unthinkable.’
She called for the Government to urgently review guidelines which mean care homes are placed in lockdown for 28 days, with visits banned, after a single case.
‘I keep on buying presents in hope’
Sophie Poskitt, 31, with her father Simon, was left confused by a video call home. Her mother, Susan, is now anxiously waiting to see if Sophie’s care home will receive lateral flow tests in time for Christmas
All Susan Poskitt wants for Christmas is to see her daughter Sophie, 31, who has been locked away in her care home since March and hasn’t seen her parents once.
Mrs Poskitt is now anxiously waiting to see if Sophie’s care home will receive lateral flow tests in time for Christmas.
Mrs Poskitt, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said: ‘Every time I go shopping, I pick up more Christmas presents for Sophie. All I want for Christmas is to see her.
‘She’s my only daughter, it’s so upsetting to not see her.’ Sophie, who has learning difficulties and autism, has been in a care home since she was 18 but would regularly see her parents.
Over Christmas, she would usually stay with them for as long as she wanted. Her parents have not been able to visit Sophie during the pandemic due to strict rules at her care facility.
They can’t even video call her because on the one occasion they did, Sophie was left too upset and confused.
The care home are now waiting on the delivery of lateral flow tests to facilitate visits.
She said: ‘The Government must ensure local authorities and homes can no longer impose blanket bans so this nightmare can end.’
Edel Harris, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: ‘The one-size-fits-all guidance, designed with older people in mind, often doesn’t address the needs of people with a learning disability or take into account the risk to their wellbeing of being left alone.
‘For those in supported living services, we are yet to see any government guidance on family contact – meaning thousands of people are left in the dark about whether they will be able to see their loved one this Christmas. We can’t stand by and see their Christmas be cancelled.’
Charities including Mencap are calling for all care residents to receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Mrs Harris added: ‘We are still extremely concerned that people with a learning disability are not being prioritised.’
The Department of Health said: ‘Our updated guidance enables care home providers, families and local professionals to work together to find the right balance between the benefits of visiting on quality of life, and the risk of transmission of Covid-19. We have also provided testing for staff, residents and visitors, as well as free PPE to allow this to happen.
‘In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop visiting – except in exceptional circumstances such as end of life – to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.’
Ten months of devastation
Sam Adams (centre), 33, has the deadly and degenerative brain disorder Huntington’s disease and lives in a care home in East Sussex. His mother, Ruth, fears it will be his final Christmas – but can’t spend time with him. (Also pictured, Sam’s sister Hannah)
Ruth Adams fears it will be her son Sam’s final Christmas – but has already been told she can’t spend any time with him.
Sam, 33, has the deadly and degenerative brain disorder Huntington’s disease and lives in a care home in East Sussex.
Visiting at Sam’s home stopped at the start of November. Mrs Adams was told she could finally visit her son – behind a screen – on December 3 after testing negative for coronavirus as part of the Government’s pilot for visitors.
But the night before her visit, she received a devastating phone call saying staff at the home had tested positive and therefore it would be locked down for 28 days.
Now they won’t be able to see each other until January at the earliest.
Mrs Adams said: ‘I want the time he has left to be happy. This isn’t happy, it is wicked. This could be his last Christmas. It has been ten months of grief, devastation, loss and guilt every single day.’
Source: Read Full Article