It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey. I thank my hon. Friend Joy Morrissey for securing this debate on such a hugely important topic.
Throughout the pandemic I have received devastating correspondence from my constituents, as I imagine all Members have, regarding the inability to see their loved ones in care homes. Although the restrictions placed on care homes are for the protection of the most vulnerable and their carers, the loneliness and isolation that people feel, especially those with dementia, has increased due to covid-19 preventing them from seeing their family and friends.
Although more needs to be done for residents with dementia and other diseases, I welcome the guidance that was provided by the Government last week, which sets out plans on how our care home residents and their families can be reunited. For areas such as mine that have experienced heightened restrictions for more than three months, the measures will help tackle the mental health and wellbeing of care home residents and reunite families.
Prior to those tougher restrictions being imposed in July, the images of family members being able to see one another again were truly heartwarming. The joy in the faces of residents and their families will stay with me for a long time. To have that taken away seems not only heartbreaking but cruel. I truly sympathise with all families and care workers who have had to endure that hardship.
Some care homes in my constituency are extremely limited as to what contact between families they can provide, with either limited window space for window meetings or limited telephones to speak to family members. One care home, which I will not name, has only one phone for residents, and that frequently does not work or is not answered.
Along with all Members, I agree that we need to tackle this pandemic but we also need to be fair in tackling it. I fear that is one factor that we are forgetting. It is more important than ever to use technology to help mitigate some of those issues, but a lack of understanding of how to use technology, on the part of residents and even staff, has prevented it from being fully utilised. What is being done further to mitigate those issues?
There is no greater need than to spend time with one’s loved ones. That need is even stronger for our most vulnerable and we must go further in addressing that need. The Government’s announcement last week was a big step in the right direction, but we need to carry on our journey to tackle the issues of loneliness and mental health.
I will put on the record my thanks to all the care workers across Radcliffe, Prestwich and Whitefield for the immense work that they have undertaken during the pandemic, for the work that they continue to undertake, and for the hardship that they must endure in having to deal with the frustrations and heartbreak that they see on a daily basis.