Government changes how outdoor exercise guidance applies to people with specific health needs

The Government has changed its leaving home guidance to permit people with specific health needs to exercise outside more than once a day and to travel to do so where necessary, following the threat of a judicial review challenge.

The guidance, which can be viewed here, 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.

The threat of a legal challenge was made 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.

Jamie Potter and Emma Varley of law firm Bindmans had instructed Steve Broach of 39 Essex Chambers on the proposed claim.

Bindmans said one child in particular was deliberately taken to a quiet location that was not local to them, because of their particular needs and where there was a far more limited risk of infection (of him and others) than if he were to remain in an urban environment. 

It was submitted in the pre-action correspondence 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, Bindmans said.

Jamie Potter 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 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.”

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