The Coronavirus Act 2020 intends to help services cope with a limited number of staff available to help people with care and support needs.

It gives local authorities the option to suspend some of their duties under the Care Act if they think it’s reasonable to do so. This could be because there aren’t enough staff to cope with an increased demand over the next few months.

Local authorities must follow a specific decision-making process to decide if they need to suspend these duties. Local authorities should also let carers and people using their service know if they’re going to suspend these duties.

The suspended duties are called the ‘Care Act easements’.

The following guidance only relates to the effect of the Coronavirus Act on local authorities in England.

Local authority’s duties to assess people for care needs

If a local authority starts using the Care Act easements, there’ll be no duty for them to assess people to find out about their care and support needs. Local authorities also won’t be under a duty to assess carers of these people.

The government has stated that it’s still important that local authorities continue to provide the best possible care to people and assessments by local authorities should still take place where possible.

Providing care to people

Under the Care Act easements, local authorities won’t be under a duty to meet people’s assessed care needs.

However, if a local authority thinks there’s a need to give a person care to avoid a breach of that person’s rights under the European Convention, the local authority must meet those needs regardless of the changes made by the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The rights which are likely to be relevant to local authorities’ decision-making are:

  • The right to life
  • Preventing torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
  • The right to liberty and security
  • The right to respect for private and family life
  • The right to freedom from discrimination

It’s still unclear how local authorities should assess the breach of someone’s human rights. But the assessment probably won’t be the full care assessment that’s currently needed.

Under the Care Act easements, local authorities will only consider themselves to have a duty to meet people’s needs in the most extreme circumstances. This is based on previous case law on human rights and social care.

Government guidance gives an example of a situation where a local authority might have to reduce personal care for one person so that another gets the help they need to eat.

Financial assessments for care

Under the Care Act easements, local authorities also won’t have to do financial assessments of people needing care. This means that local authorities can’t charge for care and support until a financial assessment can happen, but they should still provide a care package.

Once the Coronavirus Act 2020 is no longer in force and a financial assessment can happen, local authorities can charge for care and support, including care and support that was provided before the financial assessment was carried out.  Local authorities must inform people that these charges might be made.

If someone refuses their care package because of the costs involved, local authorities won’t be obliged to provide that package.

Scope of the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020

The Care Act changes brought in by the Coronavirus Act 2020 will apply to people currently receiving care as well as those with new care needs.