Adults & Health Cabinet Member – Minutes – 23 April 2020

3 CARE ACT EASEMENTS: CORONAVIRUS ACT 2020 – The Director: Adults and Community Wellbeing submitted a report informing the Cabinet Member of the Care Act easements, which had been created under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which was designed to ensure the best possible care for the residents of North Lincolnshire over this period.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 became law on 26 March 2020, which was designed to provide the legal measures to effectively manage the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Schedule 12 of the Act related specifically to changes to the provisions of the Care Act 2014.

Further guidance for Local Authorities on how the powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 enabled them to prioritise more effectively where necessary than would be possible under the Care Act 2014 prior to its amendment, was issued by the Department for Health and Social Care on 1 April 2020 ‘Care Act Easements’. The easements came into force on 31 March 2020.

It was expected that Local Authorities do everything they can to continue meeting existing duties, and to comply with the pre-amendment Care Act provisions and related Care and Support Statutory Guidance for as long and as far as possible. The new powers were time-limited and were there to be used as narrowly as possible.

Local Authorities would only take a decision to begin exercising the Care Act easements when the workforce was significantly depleted, or demand on social care increased, to an extent that it was no longer reasonably practicable for it to comply with its Care Act duties.

In these circumstances, the powers that had changed were detailed at paragraph 2.5 of the report. There were a number of protections and safeguards that had been put in place if easements were put in place, these were detailed at paragraph 2.6 of the report.

Other important duties on Local Authorities remained in place: –

• Duties in the Care Act to promote wellbeing and duties relating to safeguarding adults at risk remained in place.
• Duties in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 relating to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) remained in place. Guidance on the operation of DoLS during this period would be published separately.
• Local Authorities’ duties relating to prevention and providing information and advice also remained in place.
• Duties imposed under the Equality Act 2010 also remained, including duties to make reasonable adjustments, the Public Sector Equality Duty and duties towards people with protected characteristics.

Any decision to operate an easement would be taken locally with the following: –

• It would be agreed by the Director of Adult and Community Wellbeing (DASS) in conjunction with or on the recommendation of the Principal Social Worker.
• The Director of Adult and Community Wellbeing (DASS) and the Principal Social Worker would involve and brief the lead member for Adult and Health as part of this decision-making process.
• The Health and Wellbeing Board would be kept informed.
• The decision would also be fully informed by discussion with the Local NHS CCG leadership.

Local Authorities would be expected to observe the ‘Responding to COVID 19: the ethical framework for adult social care’ when considering and implementing easements.

A record of the decision with the evidence taken into account would be kept and communicated to all providers, service users and carers; and reported to the Department of Health and Social Care when Local Authorities decided to start prioritising services under these easements, explaining why the decision had been taken and briefly providing any relevant detail.

Adult and Community Wellbeing Services had re-modelled services to maximise business continuity and the ability to discharge the current Care Act duties for as long as possible. Performance and quality assurance frameworks would be utilised to monitor this position.

Resolved – That the temporary changes to the Care Act 2014 arising from the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the revised decision making powers afforded to the DASS in relation to Care Act easements be noted.