View from the house: Spiritual wellbeing as vital for people as physical health

Barry Gardiner wants designated clergy to be given access to care homes.

Barry Gardiner wants designated clergy to be given access to care homes. - Credit: Archant

As we approach the end of our first week of this second lockdown, there seem to be as many different views about the new restrictions as there are people.

Some are worried about how to keep elderly relatives safe, some are facing the collapse of their business, others have just been made redundant. There is anger, confusion and fear in almost equal measure.

Managing the response to coronavirus is not easy, but patience with government appears to be wearing thin.

So this week I want to focus on one particular change that all of us might agree with.

I have asked the health secretary why priests have been unable to administer the sacrament to those dying in care homes. I asked why rabbis have been unable to secure a Minyan to say the Kiddush. I pointed out our spiritual wellbeing and mental health are just as vital as our physical health.

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My proposal is to designate priests/rabbis/imams as religious duties in care settings.

Does this mean that the atheists among us lose out key workers who would be subject to regular Covid tests and who were therefore safe to visit and attend to their? Of course not. To support the mental health of those living in a care setting or in isolation, I believe that it should be possible to designate a close family member or loved one to maintain the physical and social bonds that are so vital, particularly in old age.

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Many workplaces have gone to extraordinary lengths to secure the safety of their staff – churches and synagogues, temples and mosques have done the same.

The key question is if government are prepared to recognise they provide an essential service. I believe they do.

We must understand faith is a vital part of people’s lives, never more so than when they are preparing for the end of life. To cut people off from that support is to cut them off from hope.

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