Just two councils are left suspending Care Act duties, down from the original eight, as two more authorities returned to full compliance with the act.
Coventry and Warwickshire have joined Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Staffordshire and Sunderland in ending their use of the so-called Care Act easements, leaving Derbyshire and Solihull as the only two among the 151 English authorities with social services responsibilities applying them.
The easements, enacted through the Coronavirus Act 2020, are designed to help councils deal with significant depletion of their workforces and increased demand due to coronavirus, by allowing them to suspend their duties to assess need, carry out financial assessments, develop or review care plans and, if necessary, meet needs other than where there would otherwise be a breach of human rights. The last, known as stage 4, is a step only taken by Derbyshire and Solihull so far.
Coventry had used the easements to suspend full financial assessments, needs assessments, care planning and reviews, whereas Warwickshire had suspended financial assessments. But both West Midlands authorities said the measures were no longer necessary and they had returned to full Care Act compliance.
Return to full compliance
Coventry said that it was now carrying out financial assessments online on a business-as-usual basis, and undertaking assessments, care and support planning and reviews by telephone and video conferencing, with these carried out face to face when a risk assessment indicated this was necessary.
It said it may return to using the easements “if we face any significant staffing and demand pressures as a result of changes in the infection rate relating to Covid-19”.
Warwickshire said it no longer needed “to take some of the measures we were taking (referred to as easements) to streamline and prioritise our work”.
A spokesperson for the council said: “In order to support the local NHS, Warwickshire County Council has used the opportunities provided by the Care Act easements to streamline its assessment processes. The council would like to assure people that it has not taken any decisions to reduce the level of support provided to its social care customers.”
Where Care Act duty suspensions are still in place
On its website, Solihull said it had had to reduce support for some people – using the stage 4 easement – because of the impact of Covid-19 in increasing demand for care and support and depleting the workforce.
“We have contacted the people affected individually before making any changes and have worked with them and their families to help find alternative arrangements, including making use of support from the voluntary and community sector,” the council said. “We are monitoring the situation closely and regularly so that full service can be restored as soon as is reasonably possible.”
Derbyshire said the only service affected by the Care Act easements currently was in-house home care services, and that some people with lower-level care needs had had their home care reduced, through agreement. Their care arrangements were being reviewed every two weeks – and more frequently for more vulnerable people – and their full care arrangements would be reinstated as soon as possible.
The council is still facing a legal challenge from a resident on the grounds that it had failed to show how it followed government guidance in implementing the changes.