Annie’s Law is vital but we can’t do it overnight, we need to get it right

The Scottish Government wants ­everyone who lives in a care home to have the right to see and spend time with the people they love. That is why we are committed to ­implementing “Anne’s Law”.

We have now launched a consultation on proposals to do this, as we pledged to do in our Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22.

We want to get the views of everyone on how best to put a law in place which works to ensure that people who live in adult care homes have rights to see and spend time with the people who are important to them, in order to support their health and well-being.

It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly hard for people living in care homes and for their loved ones.

I deeply regret the lives that have been lost, but also the distress that has been caused to those who have been unable to see friends and relatives due to the measures we have had to put in place to protect against the coronavirus.

We know that while the pandemic has been harmful, so are prolonged periods of isolation between people and their sons, daughters, relatives and friends.

Kevin Stewart

We have made great progress on this. There are now extensive layers of protection in place to enable visiting to happen safely as possible, and we were right to prioritise those living in care homes to receive vaccinations.

As a result, where there are cases in care homes, people are much less likely to become seriously ill, although we need to remain vigilant.

The Sunday Mail has rightly covered this issue extensively and should be congratulated for campaigning for Anne’s Law. I would like to thank the paper for helping keep this on the agenda.

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It is close to my heart too. My family have previously had the experience of caring for a loved one in a care home who was living with dementia and I know how crucial such contact is.

Some might ask why we are holding a consultation, why not introduce Anne’s Law right away? We can’t do this overnight. It will require legislation and we need to get that right.

While introducing new rights for people who live in care homes, we must make sure they do not affect the rights and needs of other residents and care home staff to be safe and ­protected, particularly where there are public health concerns.

Annie's Law is vital but we can't do it overnight, we need to get it right

Annie's Law is vital but we can't do it overnight, we need to get it right

All of this takes time. It is important the law works right from the start to improve the lives of those in adult care homes, so we do need to ask these questions, although we are keeping the consultation process short.

But there are also areas where we can make improvements quickly.

We have already changed the guidance to care homes to set out that they should be allowing the people who stay there to have a named visitor who can come into the home if they are self-isolating and during an outbreak in the home, provided the outbreak is being managed.

We are seeking to change the Health and Social Care Standards to enable people living in adult care homes to maintain family and friendship connections, and to ensure this is a factor taken into account when homes are inspected.

The consultation is the next step towards ­establishing Anne’s Law.

It is vital that we hear from as many people as possible with views and suggestions to help shape the proposal – including people who live in adult care homes, their families and friends, care home providers and staff and a wide range of other stakeholders.

I urge everyone involved to have their say, to ensure that we do this in the best possible way.

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