Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said she will “urgently” look into reports that families of adults with learning disabilities have been unable to see their loved ones for months due to coronavirus restrictions.
The charity Pamis Scotland, which helps people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, has said some health and social care partnerships have not allowed people to visit relatives in supported accommodation since March.
The issue was raised by MSPs Joan McAlpine and Jeremy Balfour in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Ms McAlpine said: “Yesterday I met parents with the Pamis charity, who are now cut off from the lives of their learning disabled adult children as some health and social care partnerships still don’t allow any visiting or trips outside, or at least very limited visits.
“The families of these young adults say that their adult children’s physical and mental health has been impacted and they suggest close family members who were previously providing high-level support should be treated as part of the care team.”
Ms Freeman said Pamis Scotland chief executive Jenny Miller has written to her saying the lack of visits is “heartbreaking” for many families.
The Health Secretary said: “The guidance about access is interpreted differently locally and I need to get to the bottom of that.”
She said the Scottish Government has offered guidance around outdoor visits and she will look into which areas are affected.
Mr Balfour asked: “Interpretation is not good enough. We have families here who have not seen their children or other family members since March.
“Some of the most vulnerable individuals have not been able to cuddle their mum or their dad.
“Can I urge the Cabinet Secretary to look at this urgently?”
He added: “It is not good enough to say ‘it’s how we interpret it’.
“We need to allow these families to have access to their children.”
He suggested that families could be tested for Covid-19 to allow visits to take place and said it should not be left to officers to interpret the guidelines.
Ms Freeman said: “I couldn’t agree more, I don’t think there’s room for health and social care partnerships to reinterpret guidance that is introduced and sent out by us from Public Health Scotland, which is soundly based.”
She added: “I will most definitely look at this urgently.”