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Government issues guidance on how local authorities can use Care Act ‘easements’

The Department of Health & Social Care has published guidance setting out local authorities can use the new 'easements' under the Coronavirus Act 2020 that mean they no longer need to meet certain duties under the Care Act.

The guidance, which can be viewed here, covers:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of the easements
  • What the powers actually change
  • Protections and safeguards
  • Principles to govern use of the powers
  • Steps local authorities should take before exercising the Care Act easements
  • Interaction with other changes
  • Oversight
  • Annex A: local decision-making relating to the easements
  • Annex B: guidance on streamlining assessments and reviews
  • Annex C: prioritisation process
  • Annex D: Safeguarding guidance
  • Annex E: Link to the Coronavirus Act 2020 Explanatory Notes.

In the section on the purpose of the easements, the guidance says: “Local authorities and care providers are already facing rapidly growing pressures as more people need support because unpaid carers are unwell or unable to reach them, and as care workers are having to self-isolate or unable to work for other reasons. The Government has put in place a range of measures to help the care system manage these pressures.

“Local authorities should do everything they can to continue meeting their existing duties prior to the Coronavirus Act provisions coming into force. In the event that they are unable to do so, it is essential that they are able to streamline present assessment arrangements and prioritise care so that the most urgent and acute needs are met. The powers in the Act enable them to prioritise more effectively where necessary than would be possible under the Care Act 2014 prior to its amendment (referred to in this guidance as the Care Act). They are time-limited and are there to be used as narrowly as possible.”

Barrister Jonathan Auburn of 11KBW said: “Local authorities will need to consider all of this guidance carefully, particularly section 6, which sets out the steps that local authorities should take before exercising ‘the Care Act easements’.

“This clearly states that 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 (as they stand prior to amendment by the Coronavirus Act) and where to continue to try to do so is likely to result in urgent or acute needs not being met, potentially risking life.’

“The guidance sets out how this decision should be taken, and the evidence that should be taken into account​."

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2020 came into effect yesterday (31 March) and can be viewed here. These Regulations bring section 15 of, and Part 1 of Schedule 12 to the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”) into force so that local authorities in England do not have to comply with certain duties in relation to meeting needs, and carrying out assessments, under the Care Act 2014, and to modify duties to meet needs under the Care Act 2014, until such time as regulations are in force under section 88 of the Act (power to suspend and revive provisions of the Act), or the Act is no longer in force.

Book now: Zoom Webinar - Care Act 2014 Easements in the Coronavirus Act 2020 - what do they mean for you? - Cornerstone Barristers - 8 April - 14:00-15:00.

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