Families of care home residents and campaigners met with MSPs outside the Scottish Parliament to protest against recent changes to the current care home laws.
Under new Government guidance released on Wednesday, care home residents will be able to choose a friend or relative as a “named visitor” to visit them, even during a “managed” Covid-19 outbreak.
But members of Care Home Relatives Scotland (CHRS), who headed the protest at Holyrood on Thursday, called for the guidance to be enshrined in law – a legislation campaigners have dubbed Anne’s Law.
Protesters met with the Scottish minister for social care, Kevin Stewart, and MSPs Jackie Baillie and Monica Lennon, to share their experiences of being closed off from loved ones over the last year.
Speaking at the protest, campaigner Judith Coulson shared her heart-breaking experience of her mum dying in June after having limited visits to see her over the last year.
“It was so hard seeing her get worse and not be able to visit her as often.
“There absolutely has to be a law that allows at least one family member in to see a care home resident, even if residents have tested positive.
“Government guidance doesn’t mean that every care home will follow it, so we must push for it to be made official law.
“We can’t have residents being left alone in isolation like this again, it’s heart-breaking.”
Speaking at the event, the co-founder of CHRS, Cathie Russell, said: “Updating guidance for care homes isn’t enough, it needs to be written in the law.
“Many people think care home visits are back to normal, but they really aren’t.
“Some care homes still lockdown when there have been positive cases, shutting people away from their loved ones.
“There has to be a law that allows at least one loved one in no matter what the Covid circumstances are.”
Anne’s Law was named after Anne Duke, the mother of campaigner Natasha Hamilton who started the original petition to ensure one family member be granted access to care homes regardless of lockdown levels.
Speaking at the protest, Ms Hamilton said: “I am here today to fight for every single care home resident in Scotland, not just my mum.
“Care home residents should not be restricted from seeing their family members.
“We need Anne’s Law to be a legacy of our experience over the last year and a half, and to ensure that care home residents will never again be completely isolated from a loved one.”
Veronica Gibson, who attended the protest, spoke about her daughter Holly, 36, being stuck in a care home for 14 months during the pandemic.
“Holly was imprisoned for more than a year,” Ms Gibson said.
“She found being trapped in the home so distressing, and for her not being able to see her own mum for long periods of time was traumatic, for both of us.
“This can’t happen again.”
Speaking to campaigners at the protest, Mr Stewart said: “We have had to do things that none of us would have expected to do as politicians, in terms of curbing people’s rights.
“But the key thing here is to keep people as safe as possible.”
“Now that we are coming out of the pandemic, we need to start putting these things right.
He added: “During the pandemic our priority has been to protect care home residents and staff from infection – these changes (the latest guidance) will balance that with the need to protect residents’ wellbeing by supporting contact to continue as safely as possible.”
Tweeting about the protest, Monica Lennon said: “It was a pleasure to catch up with Anne’s Law campaigners at the Scottish Parliament protest today.
“We’ve waited too long for Anne’s Law – 100 % cross party exists. We need a date from the Scottish Government and an emergency plan to pass this law.”
MSP Jackie Baillie tweeted: “Really moving to meet with Anne’s Law campaigners this morning.
“The Scottish Government must work urgently to reunite families and care home residents after 18 months of trauma and separation.”
The protest was held in solidarity with Rights for Residents in London which took a petition with more than 260,000 signatures to Downing Street, demanding the same guidance be enshrined in law in England.