Dear Helen Whately,
I’ve never written an open letter to a government minister before – not one like this anyway. But you are the minister of state for social care, and it is caring – or rather the grievous lack of it – that I wish to raise with you today. Please don’t look at the headline and turn away. Please, I beg you.
You won’t have heard of Robert Styler. Robert is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Britons whose loved ones have been trapped in a care home during the Covid crisis. Although I was aware of the distress that people in that situation were experiencing, I’ll admit that I hadn’t fully appreciated the full tragedy of it until Robert wrote to Liam Halligan and me at the . This is how his email began:
三级成人视频“Josephine and myself have recently celebrated our diamond anniversary – from teenage sweethearts to 83-year-old sweethearts. Sadly, my wife is incarcerated in a nursing home. She is suffering from dementia, and I have not been able to hold the love of my life in my arms since March. As each day passes, our connection becomes more tenuous as she fails to connect with me on FaceTime, and I am no longer able to see her even in an outside location.
“I live alone and take great care to limit exposure to this virus and certainly pose a lot less risk to Josephine and her fellow inmates compared to the staff who come and go every day, either at home with their families or mixing with a wide range of the public. We cannot even touch each other.
三级成人视频“I would have her at home with me in a heartbeat, as I did for two years previously, except she is now totally disabled and I could not give her the care she needs. All I ask is to be able to be with her, to take care of the little personal things that I know she needs. But, no, they are in complete lockdown because three tested positive for Covid…”
I tried to read out Robert’s email on the podcast, but I started crying so Liam had to finish it, and then he was in tears. We were a mess.
You can listen to that moment on the audio player below – it starts at 53:22.
What was hard to bear, Helen, was that this man, utterly devoted to the woman he married 60 years ago, is forbidden to see her when he doesn’t know how long either of them has left. For the Government to claim that it is imposing such draconian measures in order to make care homes “safe” rings hollow when the main danger to octogenarians like Robert and Josephine is either they perish of loneliness, or they die alone without having had a chance to say goodbye.
三级成人视频I have heard it suggested that, having lost 25,000 elderly people back in March when they were ejected from hospital without being tested, the Government is now terrified of another outbreak in care homes. While a certain caution is commendable, a strategy that denies visitors access for the foreseeable future ignores the fact that residents only have an average life expectancy of 24 months. Many would gladly run a small risk to enjoy a hug from their children and grandchildren. The state should not be in the business of sparing itself the embarrassment of further deaths if it means condemning vulnerable human beings to a living hell that is not so very far from death itself.
In his interview with me (which you can listen to on the audio player at the top of this article), Robert asks for your Government to show some humanity. Surely, he says, it cannot be beyond the wit of man to find a solution which balances the risk of contracting Covid-19 against the devastating mental and physical deterioration suffered by the abandoned and the anguish caused to those who love them. So far, the Department of Health and Social Care has not come up with such a solution. In fact, it has shown a deeply regrettable unwillingness to engage with those who are pleading on behalf of their mothers and fathers.
三级成人视频Minister, you issued guidance to care homes to “dynamically risk-assess and implement a Covid-infection control policy”. Unfortunately, care homes took that as an instruction to lock in residents and lock out loved ones. It seems as if the care homes are hiding behind government guidance while the Government is passing the buck to care homes. Exactly who is thinking about the needs and the rights of the elderly people in all this?
三级成人视频What impact do you think the policy of “no visits since March” is having on care home residents? Many care home owners, citing your own guidance, have even banned window visits where the window is closed. How can you possibly defend that? It defies belief. The Government has not asked the elderly who were being shielded at home to go back into full lockdown due to the severe impact the isolation had on them. How can the Government support the isolation of the elderly in care homes given they face the same distressing ill-effects?
Helen, it is two weeks and one day since you promised a visitor pilot for care homes in England which would allow a relative to be treated as a key worker so they could be tested regularly and see their family member. To say “I can’t give you a date, but I can say we are moving forward with it” might buy you time. People in their 80s and 90s don’t have time. The question which the excellent campaign is asking is: “Why do we need a pilot scheme at all?”
Some care homes have continued to admit visitors with no ill effects. Surely, they can be taken as examples of best practice? The Scottish Government has already relaxed its restrictions with visits indoors and outside being extended. Even “hugs and hand-holding” are permitted if strict infection control measures are observed. What possible excuse does England have for not following suit?
三级成人视频Robert tells me that he and Josephine voted Conservative all their lives – “but I have to say this is not the Government I voted for”. There are many Roberts and Josephines who will never forgive the Tories for the way their loved ones have been mistreated. Come the next election, you may find yourself wishing that you had not turned a deaf ear to the cries of some of your most devoted supporters.
That is not the reason to act, minister. The reason to act now, this very minute, is because to allow the present situation to continue is unconscionable. It is barbaric.
三级成人视频Josephine Styler was allowed home for a day in August to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary with Robert and a small number of close family. She had her hair cut and blow-dried – Robert says his wife was always immaculate – and she spent a happy afternoon in her beloved garden surrounded by people who adore her. When she returned to the care home, Jo was confined to her room for two weeks; a prisoner once more. Because of your guidance, Helen.
Robert doesn’t know if he will meet his wife again in this world. Every feeling person cries out at this injustice. There is no easy escape from the dreadful virus – but, with a stroke of a pen, minister, you can relieve the misery of hundreds of thousands of people. Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, please do it. Please.
Have you had a similar experience of the care home system as Robert and Josephine? Allison would love to hear from you. Email: email@example.com or join the comments below this article
Join Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan to discuss the latest Planet Normal episode in the comments section of this article at 11am on Thursday 29 October.
Listen to Planet Normal, a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble with columnists Liam Halligan and Allison Pearson, on the audio player above or subscribe for free on , or your preferred podcast app. Find out more about podcasts here.