At the beginning of lockdown, the Secretary of State for Health released the Coronavirus Act 2020, which contained sweeping changes to local authorities’ duties under the Care Act 2014.
In short, the Coronavirus Act sets out the temporary emergency measures that enable public bodies such as local authorities, NHS and the police to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The measures are wide-ranging and impact existing legislation and regulations.
In this post, we’ll be providing a brief summary of the key amendments to the Care Act made by Schedule 12 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and what this means for those (in England) who are reliant on care and support provisions from their local authority.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown resulted in a significantly reduced workforce, due to sickness, imposed isolation and more, making it nearly impossible for local authorities to fulfil their statutory duties under the Care Act 2014. As such, several duties were temporarily suspended, and some modified, to prioritise care and support packages for people with the most urgent and serious social care needs.
Government guidance stated that such powers should “only be used if demand pressures and workforce illness during the pandemic meant that local authorities were at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties and only last during the duration of the emergency”.
Which duties were changed?
The Care Act 2014 placed explicit legal duties on local authorities to provide or arrange services for individuals and their carers with care and support needs in their local area. However, given the emergency period, temporary changes have been made to the Care Act 2014, which mean local authorities did NOT have to comply with the following duties in the normal way:
· Duties to assess the needs of the adult under section 9.
· Duties to assess carers needs under section 10.
· Duties to give written record of adult’s needs and carer’s assessment under section 12.
· Duties to determine eligibility for care and support under section 13.
· Duties to carry out financial assessment under section 17.
· Duties to meets adult’s needs under section 18 and carer’s need for support section 20.
· Duties to prepare care/support plan under sections 24, 25 and 27.
· Duties where an adult expresses a preference for accommodation.
· Duties to assess a child’s needs for care and support under Section 58 and 59.
· Duties where an adult moves from one local authority area to another under section 37 and 38.
· Duties for the transitioning of children to adult care and support.
What remained the same?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 confirmed that local authorities still had a responsibility to meet an adult’s needs for care and support under section 18 of the Care Act 2014, where necessary, to avoid a breach of the adult’s human rights. The same was true for a Carer’s support needs.
Note: It’s important to note that the Coronavirus Act does NOT affect the safeguarding protections in the Care Act 2014. This means that local authorities still owe a duty of care, under section 42 of the Care Act 2014, towards an adult who is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect.
As mentioned, these amendments are only to be exercised in situations where the workforce is seriously depleted, or there’s a high demand for social care – or to the extent that it’s no longer reasonably practicable to comply with Care Act duties. In addition, these measures are only temporary and are set to be reviewed by Parliament every six months.