A rule change by the government has meant separated parents can now stay in hotels while visiting their children, thanks to a campaign by journalist and father Tom De Castella.
Prior to the change, parents could visit their children during lockdown, but were unable to stay overnight. For those who do not live nearby, this presented a major problem.
Tom said, ‘The hardest aspect of the pandemic for me has been the way it has affected my ability to see my daughter Hannah. She’s three years old and is living in north Norfolk with her mum. I live in south London. It’s a seven or eight hour round trip depending on traffic. It’s a long day. If I was to be given access two days running, something I’ve been promised, I was supposed to drive back at the end of day 1 and then on the morning of day 2 drive all the way back to Norfolk again. It didn’t make any sense. I’m glad that the Cabinet Office has listened and changed the rules. There are hundreds of thousands of people in separated families. Some of them probably live far apart from each other. So I’m keen to get the word out that hotels are now open to them. They have the same rights as keyworkers in this regard.’
CAMPAIGNING FOR CHANGE
But to make this rule alteration happen, Tom had to begin a campaign with the hope of being able to spend quality time with his daughter:
‘I’m a journalist and for my job I was allowed to go up there and stay in a Premier Inn. But to stay there to spend time with my daughter after months apart was effectively banned. It was a real injustice. So I wrote to Michael Gove, tweeted him and emailed his department. I got no reply, which was infuriating. But earlier this month, out of the blue, I got an email from the Cabinet Office. Someone had been paying attention it turns out. The email said they had amended the Covid rules in response to my complaint. I was amazed and delighted. It’s excellent news that this oversight in the original rules has now been corrected.’
IMPROVING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FATHER AND DAUGHTER
Tom believes the rule change will greatly benefit both his relationship with his daughter and also her wellbeing.
He said, ‘My aim is to make the most of the access I have to spend as much time with Hannah as possible. This is about spending time with your child, it’s essential to creating a bond, which in turn is crucial for their emotional development’.
USING HOTELS DURING LOCKDOWN
Under the current restrictions, hotels and hostels must close except for specific circumstances, which includes providing accommodation to the homeless and those who cannot return home, those needing to stay for work purposes, and parents who are visiting their children.
According to government guidance, hotel restaurants and bars are to remain closed, but ordering food and drink via room service is still permitted.
The full updated legislation can be found via this link (regulations 5 and 6).