New visitors regulations for the disability care and psychiatric care sectors

The government announced today that the disability care and psychiatric care sectors have adopted new visitors regulations. The visitors regulations for disability care will also apply to youth care homes. For the time being, the national rules will apply until 6 April inclusive. They are intended to better protect staff and residents in care homes against coronavirus, as residents have been designated a vulnerable group. Visits are being limited as much as possible. The regulations take account of the specific context in which these sectors operate and the considerable diversity within sectors. Institutions are therefore given scope to adapt the rules to local circumstances.

Disability care

In principle, care homes for people with disabilities will not admit visitors, unless contact with a family member or volunteer is essential to a resident’s wellbeing. In that case, a resident may have no more than one visitor for up to one hour every day, provided the visitor does not have a cough, a cold, a fever or any other symptoms that might indicate coronavirus infection. It is up to care homes themselves to decide whether to admit visitors.

A complete visitors ban will be imposed if anyone is found to be infected with coronavirus. Care homes will try to communicate the visitors regulations in a way that is easy to understand. Visitors are encouraged to stay in touch with their loved ones in other ways, such as video calls or WhatsApp. This highly unusual situation is likely to give rise to strong emotions and challenging behaviour on the part of residents, and care workers and other staff will of course do their best to be understanding.

Psychiatric institutions

A total ban on visitors would pose grave risks to the mental health of patients in psychiatric institutions. For the time being, therefore, a total ban is out of the question. Visiting rules will depend on each individual situation. In principle, a patient may have one visitor a day for up to one hour. People with cold symptoms, no matter how mild, should not visit relatives or friends in psychiatric institutions. Visitors are not allowed in wards where one or more patients are being cared for in isolation because of coronavirus infection. Visitors are encouraged to stay in touch with their loved ones in other ways, such as video calls or WhatsApp.

Youth care

The visitors regulations for children in youth care homes are the same as for disability care. The visitor rules for children in psychiatric institutions are the same as for adults in psychiatric institutions.