Organisations representing people needing care and support have welcomed the Prime Minister’s acceptance of changes to the Terms of Reference for the public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic to look at the effect on the human rights of vulnerable people within the health and social care system, including those in care homes, hospitals, mental health units and rehabilitation facilities.
The acceptance of the revised Terms of Reference now paves the way for the inquiry to get started.
In April the Relatives & Residents Association and John’s Campaign submitted a joint response to the consultation on the inquiry’s terms of reference calling for changes to ensure the impact on mental health and wellbeing of people needing care and support were reflected, as well as highlighting the unequal impact of the pandemic on this group. These were two key revisions to the terms of reference the inquiry’s Chair, Baroness Hallet, recommended to the Prime Minister. It is very welcome that these changes to the terms of reference have now been accepted by the Prime Minister.
The two organisations will be applying for core participant status in the inquiry as soon as possible and are represented by law firm Leigh Day.
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said:
“The families we’ve been supporting need, and deserve, answers. About the devastating loss of life, about the neglect of social care, about the harm and misery caused by isolation from family. The voices of older people needing care have too long been ignored. We will push for the answers they are so desperate for and ensure lessons are learned to prevent this human rights crisis from happening again.”
Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said:
“The official mindset too often prioritises institutions over the individuals for whom they exist. By choosing to maintain a focus on the personal impact of covid measures in health and social care, the Inquiry has the chance to do important work towards protecting our human rights and individual well-being in the future as well as analysing the errors of the past. This will matter to us all.”
Emma Jones, partner at Leigh Day, said:
“I was heartened to read that the Chair has taken our points on board and made it clear to the Prime Minister that his draft terms of reference did not go far enough. Such decisive action from the Chair at such an early stage gives us hope that she will ensure that this Inquiry goes as far necessary to ensure lights are shone into all the dark and dirty corners at the back of the cupboards. We will be making the application for core participant status on behalf of the Relatives & Residents Association and John’s Campaign as soon as the Chair invites applications.”
Tessa Gregory, partner at Leigh Day, added:
“Now the inquiry has begun it is crucial that things move with a degree of urgency to ensure all evidence is secured and that statements are given whilst the events are still fresh in the minds of those who will be called as witnesses. In order to ensure a full and thorough investigation it is vital that things are not lost or forgotten.”