Throughout the pandemic, we have had to strike a balance between protecting people from this cruel virus and social contact. Nowhere has this been harder than in care homes. That is why I am so pleased that, from 8 March, we will be enabling care homes to open up carefully to more visiting. Our guidance will set out how residents can have a named person for repeat visits, with testing and PPE so that those visits can be indoors. We look forward to enabling more visiting as soon as it is safe to do so.
I welcome the new guidance on care home visits, but I am concerned about this phrase:
“With the agreement of the care home.”
Does the Minister share my concern that that may allow some care homes to disagree with the guidance, therefore decide that the risk is too high and prevent the physical contact that residents in care homes are so desperate to have with their loved ones?
The hon. Member makes an important point. We have been clear that we want to see care homes enabling visiting. We recognise that care homes are having to strike a balance between giving residents access to visitors and making sure that those residents are safe. Our guidance will provide further support to care homes on how they can make sure that those visits happen.
Care homes for older folk and disabled people are a basic human right. Given that care home residents—either in the care homes themselves or perhaps in hospital—account for a third of all deaths from covid, should the Government not be trying just a bit harder to provide the staffing that is often required for those extra visits? When will the Government lay out their plan to address social care, which is so clearly lacking and has been promised for about 10 years now?
The hon. Member is right to say that visiting at the moment involves extra staffing—for instance, staff to supervise visits and to support the testing that we will be bringing in with the new visiting guidance. We have already provided funding to the social care sector that can be used to support the cost of visiting, and there is additional funding for extra workforce costs.