Changes to social care
On 31 March 2020, the Government introduced the Coronavirus Act to manage the pandemic. The Coronavirus Act 2020 includes introducing easements to the Care Act 2014 that may significantly affect your child’s social care.
What are the Care Act Easements?
The Coronavirus Act grants the Government a range of emergency powers and flexibility. This includes allowing local authorities to switch over to the new emergency powers within the Coronavirus Act 2020 so that local authorities can amend the social care services they provide. These amendments are referred to as ‘easements’.
Local Authorities are expected to provide full services for as long and as far as possible. However, if a local authority can no longer meet the needs of their existing obligations, they will apply to switch to these easements. Here, you can find a list of Local Authorities that have switched to these easements. A local authority must issue a formal notice that it is planning to switch over to the new emergency powers within the Coronavirus Act 2020 before any changes can be made to amend social care provision.
Power vs Duty
The most significant change triggered by the easements is that local authorities’ duty to meet needs has been replaced with power to meet needs. For example, ordinarily local authorities have the power and duty to carry out assessments where someone appears to require care and support. But now, local authorities have the just power to carry out assessments and no longer have the legal obligation or duty.
Has my local authority switched to these easements?
The Care and Quality Commission are updating a list of local authorities who have switched to these easements.
How will my family be affected if my local authority switches to apply these easements?
Local authorities are still expected to take all the reasonable steps to continue to meet needs of their current obligations. Switching on easements allows them to prioritise cases and apply a less formal approach to assessing and meeting need. This includes key changes in the following areas:
Social care assessments
Although local authorities will need to respond as soon as possible to requests for care and support they no longer have the obligation, or duty, to carry out detailed assessments of people’s care and support needs. As referenced above.
Local Authorities are encouraged to use different efficient ways of assessing, by liaising with other professionals and using online mediums and tools to assess, as long as this is appropriate to the person they are assessing.
Meeting ‘eligible’ social care needs
Local authorities ordinarily have a duty to meet the ‘eligible’ care needs which will have been identified during the social care assessment. But due to easements around the duty of local authorities carrying out social case assessments, they may not have identified ‘eligible’ social care needs. As such, local authorities are no longer required by duty to meet ‘eligible’ care needs unless they consider it to be a breach of an individual’s human rights.
There is a risk here that local authorities using care act easements will result in some autistic young people and their carers no longer receive the support they need.
Local authorities will not have to carry out comprehensive financial assessments otherwise known as ‘means tests’. A means test works out if you need to contribute towards the cost of care, and whether the local authority will pay for all or some of the care costs. Now, local authorities will have the power to charge for services retrospectively, as long as they have informed of the possibility of a charge in advance.
Care and support plans
Usually, local authorities have a duty to prepare and review care and support plans. The easements mean that local authorities continue to have the power to do so, but not the legal duty.
Although local authorities do not have to prepare and review Care and Support Plans now, they are expected to carry out person-centred care planning. This includes providing sufficient information to all concerned, including services providing care and support such as the young person’s school, college or social worker. They must also still involve the individual with care needs in this process.
Transitioning into Adult Services
Children’s care services provide support for young people up to the age of 18. After that adult services provide the necessary care support. To avoid gaps in transitioning to adult services, the local authority would usually carry out an assessment before a young person reached 18. If they were already receiving care support, the children’s care services would continue supporting the young person until they had successfully transitioned into the adult care services.
The easements mean that local authorities no longer have the duty to provide children’s social care services for young people who have turned 18 but have not yet transitioned to adult services. Now, the local authority may choose to carry out an assessment only once a young person has turned 18. This means there could be a gap in service, delay in accessing a new service, or no opportunity to access service at all for autistic young people and their families when they turn 18.
What will not change?
We recognise that with the new easements, families may be concerned that they may no longer receive or access the support they need. It is important that you clearly ask for support from your local authority.
Your local authority will continue to work with you to provide the social care your child or young person needs. The basic principles of person-centred planning means that local authorities still have to consult with the person needing care and their family, taking into consideration all their wants and needs. It is their duty to safeguard vulnerable people and promote wellbeing within their area.