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Updated visiting guidelines for Housing with Care schemes – 12 April 2021

Following the introduction of lateral flow device testing at Housing with Care schemes, we are applying the Department of Health and Social Care’s guidance to enable more meaningful ‘enhanced’ visits for relatives and tenants, safely and securely. This is based on the supported living guidance released on 30 March and care home visiting guidance released on 6 April, both of which the Government advise support safe visiting in our Housing with Care schemes. This is part of the Prime Minister’s ‘road map’ to ease lockdown restrictions.

There are now three key updates to our visiting policy to be aware of:

1: Controlled ‘Enhanced’ Internal Visits

Each tenant can name two individuals as ‘named visitors’, who will, subject to a risk assessment, be able to hold hands with them during indoor visits.

The ‘named visitors’ will be required to have a lateral flow device test (LFD) before entering the scheme, which NorseCare will provide on their arrival.

They must also wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to them at the scheme throughout the visit.

Apart from hand holding, they must avoid close contact such as hugging and kissing, bearing in mind that any contact increases the risk of transmission.

The visit will take place indoors, within an area set aside by the scheme, under carefully designed conditions to keep tenants, staff and visitors safe.

2: Visits involving children and young people aged under 18

We recognise that it may be difficult for friends and family to make a visit if they are not able to bring children with them. Any children visiting (apart from babies and very young children) should be counted towards the maximum number allowed for the visit. It is possible for someone aged under 18 to be a named visitor or an essential care giver, if deemed appropriate.

It is very important that any children visiting are able to follow Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures carefully. This will include social distancing, PPE use (where appropriate), and advice on minimising physical contact, as well as being able to follow any other instructions or advice the scheme staff might provide.

Visits including babies and very young children under the age of 2 may also take place with the agreement of the registered manager. These children do not need to be counted as an additional visitor.

As is the case with visitors of all ages, there should be no close physical contact between babies or young children and the tenants they are visiting.

Children aged 11 and over should wear the same PPE as adult visitors. It is not compulsory for children under the age of 3 years to wear face masks.

3: Outdoor and Window Visits

In line with the national roadmap and supported living guidance, outdoor visits will be enhanced to allow more people from 1 household to visit. The maximum number of visitors allowed will be based on the space available to use at each Housing with Care scheme. Different households can visit at different times.

This would include at a window, or within a garden area or a similar type of arrangement.

They must also wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to them at the scheme throughout the visit.

There is no need for testing with outdoor and window visits, however, these are available, and managers may request a test is completed where risks to a tenant, their visitors, supporting staff or other tenants are increased. This will be discussed when the visit is booked.

All infection control and social distancing measures remain critical in all spaces in and around the scheme.

Booking

For all types of visit, indoors and outdoors, booking remains essential. This is to ensure we continue to comply with NHS Test and Trace requirements. It also helps us to safely manage numbers of visitors at any one time, maintain social distancing and testing requirements as well as preserve the privacy and dignity of other tenants.

Why are tests needed?

Housing with Care schemes have been identified by the Government and the Local Authority as at high risk of Covid-19 due to the high numbers of tenants that require care and support and the shared spaces within the schemes. In line with this, the Government have issued the scheme with LFD tests to use to enable safe visits.

For all indoor visits, lateral flow device testing (LFD) is essential, and we reserve the right to refuse access to anyone that refuses a test.

While LFDs are not 100% accurate, they can help us to identify at least some of those people who might be carrying coronavirus, but who are not yet showing symptoms.

What happens with testing?

Staff at the scheme will guide visitors through the process for testing which is very simple and easy. The tests take around 30 minutes and for safety reasons, entry to the scheme will not be permitted until the result of the test is determined.

We hope that the 30-minute testing process is a small inconvenience, as it helps us further manage the risks of coronavirus and allows us to enable visiting more safely.

Vaccinations

It is not a condition of visiting that visitors or tenants should have been vaccinated. However, the Government strongly recommends that all visitors and tenants take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when they are invited to do so.

Please be aware

However, we are all responding to an ever-developing situation. In the event of an outbreak in one of our schemes, and in line with government guidance, we would follow the specific infection prevention control advice provided by our local Health Protection Team. This includes a temporary stop on all visiting, and only allow essential visits for tenants approaching end of life and for those showing significant distressful behaviours.

In addition, whilst we are keen to facilitate as many visits as possible, this will depend on the individual situation at each scheme and how many can practically and safely be accommodated. Each scheme will be able to advise further about this and of course, this may change on an ongoing basis.

For any further questions or queries about visiting relatives at a scheme, please contact the registered manager.

The Spring 2021 ‘Roadmap’

We will continue to work with Registered Social Landlords to bring positive changes to the scheme. Following the enhanced visiting guidance which becomes effective on 12 April, plans are also underway to reintroduce access to hairdressing services, which we know will be welcomed by tenants. From 17 May, we are also hopeful that government guidance will enable us to open the communal spaces and restaurants in our schemes. As always, we will confirm these changes when they happen.

We continue to thank relatives and friends of our tenants for their co-operation. As rates of infection in communities fall and numbers of people vaccinated rises, we look forward to further changes in guidance which will enable us to open up schemes for our tenants and their loved ones.

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