Government guidance changed to permit people with specific health needs to exercise outside more than once a day and to travel to do so where necessary

Bindmans LLP are pleased to confirm that, following pre-action correspondence, the Government has today confirmed that it has amended the leaving home guidance to make it clear that those with health conditions that require them to leave their homes more than once a day, and travel beyond their local area, are expressly permitted to do so.

In particular, the guidance has been changed to provide that:

You can leave your home for medical need. If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health – including if that involves travel beyond your local area – then you can do so. This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day – ideally in line with a care plan agreed with a medical professional.

Jamie Potter and Emma Varley of Bindmans, and Steve Broach of 39 Essex Chambers, were instructed on behalf of two families with children with autistic spectrum disorder whose conditions necessitate them leaving the house more than once day for their own well-being. One child in particular is deliberately taken to a quiet location that is not local to them, because of their particular needs and where there is a far more limited risk of infection (of him and others) than if he were to remain in an urban environment. 

It was submitted that adults and children with certain health conditions (including those with autism and mental health conditions) were disproportionately impacted by the inflexible policy which required everyone to only leave the house for exercise once per day, and which was therefore unlawful and discriminatory. The restrictions in the policy were was also not reflected in the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, the legislation that restricts citizens’ movement.

Jamie Potter, Partner at Bindmans, has said:

We welcome this proportionate and sensible amendment to the Government’s guidance, which provides much needed clarity both to our clients and other people with health conditions.  Given the unprecedented nature of the current circumstances, it is essential that everyone is clear as to what is and what is not permitted.

One of the affected families instructing Bindmans has said:

We are delighted that the government has now clarified this guidance which will enable us to support our autistic son’s needs, while maintaining social distancing, without fear of breaking the rules. The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis for everyone, but humanity and compassion, as well as our basic rights, must still prevail. We are grateful to Steve Broach of 39 Essex Chambers and Emma Varley and colleagues of Bindmans for their expertise and sensitivity as they carried out this important work.

More about this challenge is set out here.

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