After UK Government guidance in force from 12 April made clear that the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is maintaining the requirement for care home residents to self-isolate for 14 days after a visit out, John’s Campaign is threatening to bring legal proceedings if the requirement is not dropped.

Following the announcement that John’s Campaign was launching a legal challenge before Easter, the DHSC dropped an age requirement from government guidance on visits out for people living in care homes. John’s Campaign welcomed the change but has made it clear that the campaign will continue to press for removal of the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on return from a visit out. The DHSC’s updated guidance maintains the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on return from visits out, which the DHSC itself has recognised “is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home.”

In response, John’s Campaign, represented by law firm Leigh Day, has sent a further pre-action protocol letter to the DHSC to say that the imposition of a 14-day self-isolation requirement upon return from any visit out creates an unacceptable risk of illegality, because it requires care homes to act unlawfully. John’s Campaign argues that by imposing the rule, the guidance requires/encourages care homes to falsely imprison care home residents and/or deprive residents of their liberty contrary to Article 5 ECHR.

With no legal basis for the requirement, the 14-day self-isolation rule is imposed on all residents, irrespective of their personal circumstances, the nature of their visit out, and the impact of self-isolation on them, with no account being taken of their particular needs and vulnerabilities. By requiring this undifferentiated approach, the Guidance requires care home providers to ignore their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and/or Article 14 ECHR to take an individualised approach.

John’s Campaign co-founders Julia Jones and Nicci Gerrard have heard from many families whose loved ones are affected by the rule since first announcing they planned to take action against the guidance on visits out. Many stories have made it clear that visits out are rendered impossible by the self-isolation requirement. Many have also expressed concern about the fact that whilst the general population has been given a clear roadmap out of lockdown, the guidance for care home residents who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic is not fit for purpose.

Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said: “At a time that we are mourning the death of an almost-centenarian who lived his life fully to the end, I find it deeply saddening that we have to take the government to court to establish the right for all adults to be able to step out into the fresh air accompanied by a trusted friend or family member.  There are probably as many people living and working in a castle as in a medium-sized care home but I dread to think what Prince Philip would have said if he’d been told he needed to self-isolate for 14 days after a walk with his wife in the park!

“The current Government guidance that effectively imprisons all care home residents by the threat of 14 days ‘self-isolation’ reveals a shameful disregard for a group of people who have already lost more than a year from their lives. The impact on younger people with autism or learning disability who lose not only their access to their family home but also their chances to attend the outside activities promised by their care plans is incalculable. No Duke of Edinburgh award scheme participation for them. The government needs to respect the human rights of all the adults in our society, no matter what their home address.”

John’s Campaign is represented by Tessa Gregory and Carolin Ott of law firm Leigh Day. Tessa Gregory said: “The current government guidance imposes a self-isolation requirement that our client believes has no legal basis and unlawfully encourages care homes to falsely imprison their residents; it is not fit for purpose and must be urgently reviewed.”

* Source: Leigh Day