Care home residents are being “effectively barred” from voting in person in the UK’s local elections by guidance that requires them to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving the home, a care group has said.
Guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says any resident who leaves a care home in England must isolate for 14 days upon their return.
The guidance states that this is to ensure that residents who may become unknowingly infected do not pass coronavirus to other residents and staff.
But it says: “We recognise that in practice, this is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home.”
The National Care Forum said it is a “national scandal” that residents’ access to the voting booth on May 6 will effectively be restricted.
This group will be feeling that their voices and opinions are “less valid and less valuable than the rest of the population”, said the membership body, which represents not-for-profit providers.
Chief executive Vic Rayner said: “The whole experience of voting for the majority of people living in care homes will have been in person, often for many years at the same polling station, going through the motions in a way that is both familiar and a connection to wider society.
“Getting the vote is a rite of passage.
“Losing the right to vote in person is a national scandal.”
Care home residents will be able to register for a postal vote or for a proxy to vote on their behalf.
But Ms Rayner said this should be a choice, and not because other opportunities have been removed.
She said: “As soon as it became apparent that everyone would not be able to share full access to the voting options, then the elections should have been paused, or we should have found a way where the opportunities for all to vote were equalised.
“This could have been achieved by introducing postal voting for all, or if that was not possible, then having a concerted targeted deliberate campaign that ensured that each and every individual effectively barred from voting in person on the day, was made fully aware of the options available to them for post and proxy and enabled to exercise their choices in a meaningful way.
“There has not been additional support provided to care homes to make sure that those constituents, many of whom will have very strong political opinions, are enabled to vote.”
She added that it “should not be acceptable” that residents cannot vote in their local polling station without having to isolate for 14 days, when the rest of the population is going to the pub, shopping and socialising in gardens.
A previous version of the DHSC guidance, introduced on March 8, limited visits out of care homes to residents of working age.
It was updated last week, dropping restrictions preventing people over the age of 65 from taking trips outside the home.
It followed a legal challenge by the group John’s Campaign, which argued that the Government was acting unlawfully by imposing a blanket ban regardless of the health of the individual.
The group said that it wants to see the 14-day self-isolation requirement amended.
Co-founder Julia Jones said she is “personally ashamed to live in a country that treats a section of its population in this way”, adding: “On the one hand the Government trumpets the success of the vaccination programme at reducing the risk of serious illness or death from Covid; on the other it cannot permit a trip to the supposedly Covid-secure environment of a polling station.”
A Government spokesman said: “Any visit in or out of a care home brings some risk of infection, and our priority must always be to manage to transmission and keep vulnerable residents safe.
“Everyone who is eligible to vote will have the opportunity to do so in these elections. People can apply for a postal vote by April 20 or a proxy vote by April 27.”