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Wed, 28 October 2020

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EXCL Ministers urged not to let emergency coronavirus law lower social care standards

EXCL Ministers urged not to let emergency coronavirus law lower social care standards

The social care sector is expected to be heavily affected by the outbreak of Covid-19.

3 min read

Ministers have been urged to guarantee that elderly and vulnerable adults in social care will not be put at risk by emergency laws to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

The Liberal Democrats will table amendments to the Coronavirus Bill when it comes before the Commons on Monday to try and ensure that moves to temporarily relax councils' social care duties do not lead to standards slipping.

The emergency law is set to waive a host of responsibilities placed on councils to ensure that vulnerable people who may need state help are identified and supported.

It is set to ease restrictions imposed by the 2014 Care Act, which orders local authorities (LAs) to spot people eligible for social care in their area, involve them in the process, and draw up a care and support plan for them if required.

The Government has said it wants councils to "do everything possible to maintain services over the coming period".

But it has warned services will face "surging demand and reduced capacity arising from higher rates of staff absence" at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, and say they must be able "to prioritise care in order to protect life and reach rapid decisions over the provision of care without undertaking full Care Act compliant assessments".

The Lib Dem amendment would order the Health Secretary to produce a "comprehensive" report every three months if the Coronavirus Bill passes, spelling out "how the Government will guarantee provisions for social care while this Act is in force".

The first one would have to come within just ten days of the emergency law being passed, and would require MPs to be updated on funding available to support social care providers - as well as Government plans to keep standards at "as high a level as possible".

A second amendment demands that the Government guarantees social care providers will have the cash required to meet local needs - with the Lib Dems warning that the system is "already overstretched".

LOW STANDARDS 'SHOULD NOT BE NEW NORM'

The party's health spokesperson Munira Wilson told PoliticsHome: "Millions of elderly and disabled people of all ages - some of those most vulnerable to coronavirus - rely on the support of social care workers. The Government must protect these vulnerable groups and those who provide care for them."

And she added: "Ministers need to prepare for the worst if staffing levels in the social care sector are badly hit, but also commit to doing everything possible to maintain current standards. Lower standards should not become the new norm in an already overstretched social care system. 

"That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling on government to go further to shore up social care in the face of this unprecedented crisis. 

"We are urging the Government to make explicit how they will guarantee continued social care in the coming weeks and months. We are also seeking to ensure those local authorities with capacity to provide care to the current minimum standard are obligated to do so."

'SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME'

The Government has said it will only bring in the exemptions "for the shortest possible time at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak", while councils have been handed an additional £1.6bn to help them manage the impact of Covid-19 on their services.

The Lib Dem bid comes as MPs on the Health and Social Care committee prepare to quiz social care providers, regulators and councils on how the virus will affect their work.

Adass, which represents adult social care providers, has already warned that levels of support will have to be "rapidly adjusted" to respond to the peak of the virus's spread.

"People will be admitted to hospital, care visits changed to meet the most urgent needs and some homecare visits will take longer due to infection control precautions and the availability of staff," the body has said.

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