The government has published new guidance on changes to the Care Act that would allow local authorities to suspend their assessment, care planning and review duties.
The changes, made under the Coronavirus Act 2020, were passed as law on March 31 and are intended to enable authorities to priorities resources.
However, the government has insisted that the easements should only be exercised by councils when it is not possible for them to comply with their duties under the Care Act 2014.
“A local authority should only take a decision to begin exercising the Care Act easements when the workforce is significantly depleted, or demand on social care increased, to an extent that it is no longer reasonably practicable for it to comply with its Care Act duties,” the guidance said.
“The changes] are temporary. The Secretary of State will keep them under review and terminate them, on expert clinical and social care advice, as soon as possible.”
Read the guidance in full here
Changes to the act would suspend the duties on local councils in England to carry out detailed assessments of people’s care and support needs, and to carry out financial assessments.
They will, however, still be expected to respond as soon as possible to requests to care and support, and they will have powers to charge people for care during this period.
Councils would also not have to prepare or review care and support plans in line with the pre-amendment Care Act provisions, or provide continuity of care when a person moves between local authority areas.
Explaining the changes to social care organisations before they took legal effect, the Department of Health and Social Care said in a letter: “We need to prepare for the possibility that during the peak of an epidemic a greater number of people will need social care and many staff may be unavailable due to illness or the need to care for loved ones.
“This could mean that you need to focus your resources on ensuring the most serious and urgent care needs are met, and defer meeting some other, less acute or pressing needs.”
Commenting on the new guidance, Colin Angel, Policy Director at United Kingdom Homecare Association told Home Care Insight: “Homecare providers are already under severe pressure because of vacancies from Coronavirus and this must be understood by all local authorities considering using the easements to the Care Act 2014. We expect that local authority leaders will follow the Government guidance and only consider using the new powers as a last resort.
“We also expect local authorities to have regard to the guidance from the LGA and ADASS on market stability and ensure homecare providers can carry on delivering care.
“Homecare providers are delivering a vital service to the community and must be sustained so they can support the NHS during this pandemic.”