A disabled campaigner is hoping to launch a legal action against government COVID rules that force residents of care homes to isolate for two weeks every time they attend a medical appointment or visit a shop.
Doug Paulley has also told managers at his Leonard Cheshire care home that he will not be obeying the government’s “patronising, excessive and discriminatory” guidance.
Despite the government announcing that care home residents can (from Tuesday this week) go for a walk or visit the garden of a friend or relative – as long as they are accompanied – the strict rules on other visits have not changed.
This means that care home residents must self-isolate for a fortnight after every visit to a shop, a hospital, or other indoor settings.
Even for walks and visits to gardens, the care home resident still needs to be accompanied by a care worker or a “nominated” visitor.
Paulley (pictured at a pre-pandemic protest), who lives in a care home in Yorkshire, is set to seek a judicial review of the guidance.
He has highlighted the “excessive” rules that will force him to self-isolate for a fortnight every time he attends one of his regular hospital appointments, volunteers in a local charity shop, meets friends or fellow campaigners, or even just visits a local shop.
He said: “There are a few in our care home who are incandescent about the situation.
“I have reached the decision that I am just not going to comply.”
He has told managers at his care home that he plans to ignore the rules.
Leonard Cheshire has told him that it delayed implementing the rules while it tried unsuccessfully to challenge the government guidance.
Other residents of Paulley’s home are also angry, and one of them has decided to join his legal action, which will be taken through solicitors Bindmans if they can secure legal aid.
Every one of the residents of the home for younger disabled adults has had both COVID vaccines, while all its staff have also been offered both injections.
Paulley has followed the strict guidance on social distancing throughout the pandemic, but now the country is easing out of lockdown, and residents have been vaccinated, he believes the government guidance is “excessive” and a “cynical” response to the criticism of ministers’ failure to protect care homes early in the pandemic.
He said: “I am very conscious of the intense risk there has been in care homes, but the UK is gradually opening up and we are all being vaccinated.
“It feels patronising and excessive and puts such a restriction on people’s lives.
“It just feels open-ended, disproportionate and discriminatory, and stereotypes people in care homes. That’s why this is important to me.”
He added: “I am generally a stickler for following government coronavirus guidance and law.
“I have previously criticised the home for failing to do so, and thus putting our lives at risk.
“So criticising the guidance, and contemplating not complying with it, is a departure for me, and not something I do lightly.
“But this latest guidance feels to me very wrong.
“Just as everybody in the care home has had both vaccinations, the infection rate is falling, ‘official’ shielding has ended, society is starting to open up and there’s a progressive loosening of restrictions, we are having this new obligation imposed upon us.
“It’s our home, it’s our life. It seems bizarre that just because we are in a care home setting, we are treated in such a patronising way.”
Paulley already has an ongoing human rights legal action against Leonard Cheshire for not taking the necessary safety precautions to protect residents of the home during the first national lockdown.
He says the charity failed to obtain COVID tests from local authorities, and failed to stop some residents circumventing the home’s visitor guidelines.
A Leonard Cheshire spokesperson said: “We felt the original guidance placed unnecessary restrictions on people’s choices and activities.
“The government has made some changes around 14 day self-isolation rules following visits, but we still don’t think these amendments have gone far enough.
“Care home residents are generally still advised not to go out, and if they do it’s recommended they only go to outdoor spaces such as parks or gardens.
“Shops and other indoor venues such as gyms are now reopening in a controlled way across the UK.
“But there is currently no advice on when care home residents can once again safely enjoy these or other community facilities.
“There is also a requirement that people should be accompanied on all visits by a member of staff or a named visitor.
“This seems excessive, goes against personal choice, places pressures on families and, while we’ll do our best, won’t always be possible from a staffing perspective.”
The spokesperson said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the ongoing legal action Paulley is taking against the charity, as it was “ongoing with conversations continuing”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We know how important it is for people to spend more time outdoors and we will continue to look at how we can facilitate more visits out as the data shows it is safe.
“This is another significant step towards normal life and is being taken in a way that will help protect care homes from the continued risk of COVID-19.
“The changes come as the data shows cases continuing to fall meaning it is now much safer for care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, to leave their homes.
“Keeping visits outdoors will ensure any risk is minimised as much as possible.”
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
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