The Care Act Easement

Care Act Easement and the Coronavirus Act 2020

You may have heard mention in the national media of the Care Act Easements created by the Coronavirus Act 2020. This page is designed to explain what this term refers to, and how it might affect you if you are in receipt of services or a Direct Payment through Adult Social Care in Cumbria, or if you care for someone who does. Cumbria County Council has not enacted Care Act easement, and Adult Social Care continues to provide social work, occupational therapy and social care support. This may look and feel quite different for a while as we follow government guidance about keeping everyone as safe as possible.

The term easement refers to an 'easing' or change to some of the duties that the Council has under the Care Act 2014.

The changes fall into 4 key areas:

  1. The Council would not have to carry out detailed assessments of people's care and support needs. However, we would still be expected to respond to requests for care and support, consider the needs and wishes of people needing care and their family and carers, and make an assessment of what care needs to be provided. We must do this within a timeframe that does not breach someone's human rights.
  2. The Council would not have to carry out financial assessments in compliance with pre-amendment Care Act requirements. We would, however, have powers to charge people retrospectively for the care and support they receive during this period, subject to giving reasonable information in advance about this, and a later financial assessment. This would ensure fairness between people already receiving care and support before this period, and people entering the care and support system during this period. 
  3. The Council would not have to prepare or review care and support plans in line with usual Care Act provisions. We would, however, still be expected to carry out proportionate, person-centred care planning which provides sufficient information to all concerned, particularly care providers. Where support plans are reviewed, people using services and carers would be involved.
  4. The duty on the Council to meet eligible care and support needs, or the support needs of a carer, would be replaced with a power to meet needs. We would still be expected to take all reasonable steps to continue to meet needs. In the event that they were unable to do so, the powers would enable us to prioritise the most pressing needs in our community. We would still be under a duty to provide care and support to prevent a breach of human rights occurring.

The Government has developed easement with the purpose of ensuring the best possible provision of care to vulnerable people under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government has set out the circumstances for Local Authorities, including Cumbria County Council, to consider easement. These are where:

  • The workforce must be significantly depleted, or demand on social care increased, to an extent that it is no longer reasonably practicable to comply with its pre-amendment Care Act duties, and
  • Where to continue to try to do so is likely to result in urgent or acute needs not being met, potentially risking life

Before putting into place (enacting) the easements, senior managers will need to consider the evidence of the impact of the pandemic on the workforce and the impact of moving to easement or not. The decision can only be made on the recommendation of the Director of Adult Social Services and the Principal Social Worker, in consultation with the Lead Council Member for Adult Social Care and the Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board. There are 2 different levels of easement - not carrying out the duties as described above; and prioritising services to meet the most essential needs.

The Council must inform the Department of Health and Social Care, and keep the situation under close review.

The Government has stated that Local Authorities must do everything in their power to maintain services and 'business as usual' for as long as possible. If easement is enacted, then this must be for the shortest time possible.

Any work such as full Care Act assessments which were not completed under easement must be undertaken in full as soon as possible afterwards.

The Council would remain under a duty to meet need at all times when failing to do so would breach a person's human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will continue to inspect providers during the pandemic, taking a proportionate approach.

We will continue to work closely with our partners including service user, carer and advocacy organisations.

Our other roles and duties remain in place and would not be changed even if easement were to be enacted. These include our duties around safeguarding vulnerable adults, undertaking Mental Health Act assessments and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessments. The Mental Capacity Act is not affected by the Coronavirus Act.

Please be reassured that at this stage, the Council does not have plans to enact the easements and will continue to operate with 'business as usual'. Some changes may need to be made to how your support is delivered, in line with social distancing and shielding guidance, but the Council is working with customers and providers to make sure that changes are kept to a minimum.

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact your social worker to discuss these. If you are unsure who to talk to or how to contact them, you can ring Adult Social Care on the following numbers for different parts of the county:

  • Carlisle and Eden - 0300 303 3249
  • Allerdale and Copeland - 0300 303 3589
  • South Lakes and Furness - 0300 303 2704