There is no council left suspending duties under the Care Act 2014, after Solihull returned to full compliance with the legislation.
The West Midlands authority said on its site last week that it had ceased using the so-called Care Act easements, which allow authorities to suspend duties to carry out needs and financial assessments, develop or review care plans and to meet needs, unless not doing so would be a human rights breach.
Solihull used the easements – enacted under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to help councils meet increased demands and manage workforce shortages during the pandemic – to suspend financial assessments, low-level home care packages and day opportunities.
As of early last month, it was only doing the latter – the result of the need to close day services because of social distancing guidelines, but it said it was hoping to stop doing so.
In total, just eight of the 151 English councils with social services responsibility have made use of the easements, and only two of these, Derbyshire and Solihull, have used it to cease meeting needs they were required to meet.
The Coronavirus Act, which came into force in March, is due to stay in force for two years, but MPs can vote to remove provisions of the act at six-monthly intervals, with ministers required to oblige. The first such vote should take place in September.
While the act itself permits councils to adopt the easements, guidance under it – which councils are required to have regard to – says authorities must only adopt the 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… and where to continue to try to do so is likely to result in urgent or acute needs not being met, potentially risking life”.
It is not clear whether the expected rise in demand for adult social care as the lockdown eases – due to the increased need caused by the restrictions or the fact that some needs have been left hidden – will lead to more councils adopting them.