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The Government last night (Tuesday 31st March) published guidance for local authorities on how they should use the new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The new Care Act easements mean that where local authorities have to re-prioritise their resources to respond to coronavirus, their duty to carry out full needs assessments of unpaid carers, and those needing care, does not apply if:

  • their workforce is significantly depleted, or
  • the demand on social care increases to an extent that it is no longer reasonable practicable for the local authority to comply with its Care Act duties.

Should local authorities choose to “switch on” these easements, there will also be a reduction in the number of carer support plans, and care and support plans for those in need of care, being carried out.

Families won’t have to undergo financial assessments when requesting care during this period, but the assessments and charges can be back-dated.

Commenting on the guidance, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“We recognise these are temporary measures which should help local services better cope with coronavirus, however, this guidance comes at a time when social care services have been cut back year after year. Many families who do receive some form of care have a much reduced package of support, having had to meet much higher thresholds to get the care they need.

“As local authorities respond to coronavirus, carers are hugely concerned about whether the services they depend on will continue, and if they’re cut, whether they’ll be reinstated.

“Carers UK will be closely monitoring the impact of local decision-making on unpaid carers and feeding back their concerns to Government.

“This guidance on the Care Act easements makes it clear that local authorities should continue to support unpaid carers where possible. We are pleased that the Government has recognised that charging carers for services during the coming weeks will be counter-productive when they do so much to uphold our fragile social care system.

“If carers are not clearly recognised and supported during this emergency then it will only mean that more people become unwell and will need even greater support from our already over-stretched public services.”

Carers UK is developing written briefings for both local authorities and carers on what this guidance means for them. We are listening to carers’ concerns and feeding them back to Government.

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