SPONSOR SEGMENT – EASING CARE ACT OBLIGATIONS
Thursday 18 June 2020
Thursday 18 June 2020
The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows ‘easements’ of certain duties of local authorities under the Care Act 2014, effectively suspending those duties temporarily. What does this mean for councils and their ongoing duty of care?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 was brought into force at the end of March 2020, enabling the Government to respond to and manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Act and its associated guidance emphasise that easements should only be exercised by councils where essential to provide the highest level of services, also councils should comply with their existing Care Act duties for as long as possible.
A council should only enact the easements when its workforce is significantly depleted, or demand on social care increases so much the council cannot meet its duties under the Care Act.
What Care Act duties can be eased?
The four primary areas in which easements may be exercised by councils are:
What safeguards are there when easements are enacted?
These easements are subject to various protections and safeguards, for example:
How can a local authority enact the easements?
The guidance sets out a four-stage process to enact the easements:
When enacting stages three and four, the council should ensure decisions are undertaken by informed discussions with local stakeholders, such as NHS partnerships. Decision-making must be recorded properly to ensure accountability. The council should also notify the Department of Health and Social Care.
What effect might enacting easements have?
Several councils across the UK have enacted easements to the Care Act to various extents, since the introduction of the Coronavirus Act. Charities and pressure groups have raised concerns that vulnerable service users may be adversely affected.
There may be potential negative side effects of the enactment of easements. For example, commonly a service user’s care needs will change, and the care plan will need to be updated. In normal times, it can be a protracted process to get the service user’s care plan updated and amended suitably by a council. A private provider can be left without the proper funding or staffing to meet increased needs of the service user, while awaiting an updated care plan. If a council has also enacted a Care Act easement and is not required to carry out a detailed care assessment, there is a risk the service user would not receive the care they require.
We shall see what effect easements will have on the social care sector and its service users. Our view is that any such easements should only be enacted if absolutely necessary.
Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM (email@example.com)