Our Public Law and Human Rights team successfully challenged a care provider’s unlawful policy that prevented our client from having much needed contact with her parents.
Our client, Sally*, 41, has Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder which causes various and profound physical and learning disabilities, with complex health needs. Due to Rett syndrome, Sally’s lived in a care home for 20 years as she needs round-the-clock care.
Sally had weekly overnight visits to her parents’ house for the whole time she’d been at the home. These visits continued during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020. In line with risk assessments, Sally’s parents self-isolated when needed and took extra precautions to make sure their home was as safe as possible for their daughter.
However, in November, Sally’s care provider suddenly stopped any of their residents having home visits. This was very concerning for Sally and her family as the policy didn’t consider individual circumstances like Sally’s. She needed to maintain the close contact with her family that she had always had. Her lack of mental capacity and inability to communicate verbally also meant that she wouldn’t be able to understand why home visits had stopped.
Socialising is critical for the health and wellbeing of people with Rett syndrome, In particular, having close contact with loved and familiar people and changes of environment are very important for the maintenance of neural function. Sally’s care providers didn’t consider this when introducing the new policy. Sally’s parents worried that her mental and physical health would suffer and rapidly deteriorate without her home visits and opportunities to socialise.
As Sally lacks mental capacity to make decisions for herself, her parents act as her personal welfare deputies to make decisions in her best interests. They believed that it was in her best interests to continue visiting home. As such, the care home’s new policy stopped them fulfilling their duties as deputies in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005.
After the second lockdown in autumn 2020, Sally’s care provider said they’d review the new policy but the policy stayed in place.
Sally’s parents contacted us to see if we could help challenge the care home’s policy. Steven Baylis and Sarah Jackson of our Public Law and Human Rights team advised Sally’s parents on a potential judicial review.
Steven and Sarah sent an urgent letter to the care provider, challenging their unlawful policy and their decision to stop Sally from visiting her family home. It was important that we acted swiftly as Sally was becoming increasingly isolated and upset at her lack of contact.
The letter set out that the policy was an unlawful intrusion on Sally’s and her parents’ right to a family life. The care provider responded to the letter within 48 hours, confirming that they were replacing the policy as quickly as possible.
Alongside this decision, the care home confirmed they would allow Sally to return home for a visit to her parents that weekend. The care home also allowed Sally to visit her parents for Christmas the following week.
Sally and her family are incredibly grateful for the quick and vital support they received from Steven and Sarah. If it wasn’t for the quick and decisive intervention, Sally’s mental and physical health would have rapidly worsened. Sally’s parents now have the peace of mind of being able to see their daughter at Christmas and beyond.
For expert advice on mental capacity issues, the Court of Protection, and deprivation of liberty, our Public Law & Human Rights team can help. Call us on 0370 1500 100 or fill out an enquiry form.
*Not client’s real name.
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