Care home residents, under the latest Government guidance, are unable to leave their care home to exercise their inalienable right to vote in person. If care home residents vote in person, they will face 14 days of isolation on their return.
Elections will be held across England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday 8th May, with 48 million people eligible to vote to elect almost 5,000 positions of power.
The National Care Forum (NCF) said today that in a country that prides itself on being the cornerstone of democracy, to exclude around half a million people from being able to vote the way they want to, is unthinkable. It could be argued that care home residents can register to vote by post, or to have a proxy to vote for them. However, the NCF say that is, and should be, a choice. It should not be because other opportunities to exercise their democratic right have been removed by the Government.
Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum, 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.’
NCF holds the belief that 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. NCF says 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 every individual effectively barred from voting in person on the day, was made fully aware of the options available to them.
The Electoral Commission has been doing everything possible to reassure voters that visiting a polling station will be ‘safe’ and that people should be confident to vote in this way. NCF said if there was ever a model of engagement that could have prepared us for how to behave whilst social distancing, then casting your vote would be it. Yet, even with all these precautions in place, it is not allowed for those from a care home.
Rayner added, ‘The restrictions on those in care homes need to be changed. It cannot, and should not, be acceptable for the rest of the population to be out enjoying pub lunches, get-togethers in gardens, attending weddings and funerals, shopping, even enjoying a trip around the zoo – when those of all ages who live in care homes cannot even travel five minutes down the road to the local polling station without then spending the next 14 days isolating in their room. This is not a situation that any of the candidates for election should stand quietly by and accept. The 6th May needs to become a turning point not just for the electoral chances for thousands of candidates across Britain, but a turning point for each and every care home resident where we enable them all to once again become fully functioning citizens of our society.’
Visit the Government website for the latest guidance on care home visiting.