Organisations welcome start of COVID-19 public inquiry

July 1, 2022

Changes to the Terms of Reference for the Public Inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic have been welcomed by organisations representing people needing care and support.

The inquiry will now look at the effect on the human rights of vulnerable people within the health and social care system, including those in care homes, hospitals, mental health units, and rehabilitation facilities.

The acceptance of the revised Terms of Reference now paves the way for the inquiry to get started.

In April the Relatives & Residents Association and John’s Campaign submitted a joint response to the consultation on the inquiry’s terms of reference calling for changes to ensure the impact on mental health and wellbeing of people needing care and support were reflected, as well as highlighting the unequal impact of the pandemic on this group. These were two key revisions to the terms of reference the inquiry’s Chair, Baroness Hallet, recommended to the Prime Minister.

The two organisations will be applying for core participant status in the inquiry as soon as possible and are represented by the law firm Leigh Day.

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said, ‘The families we’ve been supporting need, and deserve, answers. About the devastating loss of life, the neglect of social care, about the harm and misery caused by isolation from family. The voices of older people needing care have too long been ignored. We will push for the answers they are so desperate for and ensure lessons are learned to prevent this human rights crisis from happening again.’

Julia Jones, the co-founder of John’s Campaign, said, ‘The official mindset too often prioritises institutions over the individuals for whom they exist. By choosing to maintain a focus on the personal impact of covid measures in health and social care, the Inquiry has the chance to do important work towards protecting our human rights and individual well-being in the future as well as analysing the errors of the past. This will matter to us all.’

Emma Jones, a partner at Leigh Day, said, ‘I was heartened to read that the Chair has taken our points on board and made it clear to the Prime Minister that his draft terms of reference did not go far enough. Such decisive action from the Chair at such an early stage gives us hope that she will ensure that this Inquiry goes as far necessary to ensure lights are shone into all the dark and dirty corners at the back of the cupboards. We will be making the application for core participant status on behalf of the Relatives & Residents Association and John’s Campaign as soon as the Chair invites applications.’

The joint response to the consultation on the inquiry’s terms of reference by R&RA and John’s Campaign (submitted by Leigh Day and Adam Straw QC on behalf of the two organisations) can be found here.

Details of the inquiry Chair’s recommendations to the Prime Minister can be found here.

In other news, NHS leaders are calling for a national minimum wage for social care to be introduced to avoid a staff exodus.


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