Government abandons controversial Care Act duty suspensions

New report finds “strong support” for the removal of emergency COVID-19 legislation suspending. certain Care Act duties, but temporary social work register extended for further six months

25/03/21

Government abandons controversial Care Act duty suspensions

The Government has decided to drop emergency powers granted to local authorities allowing them to suspend key duties of the Care Act 2014 relating to needs and financial assessments, and support plans.

The Government says the so-called ‘Care Act easements enabled local authorities to continue to “meet the most urgent and acute needs in the face of COVID-19” by relaxing duties to allow them to streamline assessment and charge for care retrospectively.

The exemptions received criticism when first introduced with many in the sector warning of the risks to vulnerable people. Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said at the time: “We recognise these are temporary measures which should help local services better deal with coronavirus – but it is essential that councils continue to assess the risks and vulnerabilities affecting carers and the people they support.”

Although, only eight local authorities (LAs) in England have used these powers, but not since 29 June 2020.

The Government found that there was “strong support” from groups representing people who need care and support for scrapping the provision as the social care workforce, particularly social workers, have remained resilient under significant pressure, and continued to deliver these duties without the need to for the easements.

The UK Government introduced the measures as part of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and regulations under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 in the early response to the pandemic. The Government says these two Acts have “proven essential to mitigate the risk of transmission in our communities, protect the NHS and enable it to function effectively, and save lives.”

The Coronavirus Act gained Royal Assent one year ago, on 25 March 2020, and has been an “essential enabler,” the Government says, of its approach to combating the pandemic.

However, the Government will extend measures allowing Social Work England to invite previously registered social workers in England who have left the register since 18 March 2018 to return to practice should they wish to do so.

The creation of the register has only led to around 300 temporary registrants currently making themselves available to support frontline services in England.

“A very small number” of social workers who failed to renew their registration between September and November 2020 have also been given a temporary status, Social Work England says.

“Temporary registration can be removed at any time and does not give an individual the same rights as a social worker who has a registration status of 'registered',” the regulator’s website states.

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