The government recently published what it calls ‘easements’ which are temporarily in place during the pandemic to ‘ensure the best possible provision of care to vulnerable people in these exceptional circumstances’.
These are intended to ease some of the pressure that local authorities and care providers are already under as an increasing number of people need extra support because their unpaid carers are unwell and unable to reach them, and because care workers are having to self-isolate or are unable to work for other reasons.
The four key categories of change are:
Needs and Care Assessment
Local authorities will no longer have to carry out detailed assessments of people’s care and support needs as in normal times. They are now expected to respond “as soon as possible (within a timeframe that would not jeopardise an individual’s human rights) to requests for care and support, consider the needs and wishes of people needing care and their families and carers, and make an assessment of what care needs to be provided”.
What timeframe the Government has in mind is unclear but the concern must be that, in practice, the responsibility for carrying out the assessments will fall to the already overburdened care service providers themselves. Provision is made for use of third party/allied professionals to carry out needs assessments as trusted assessors. There is also provision for supported self-assessments or assessments over the telephone or via video-link.
Local authorities will not have to carry out financial assessments in compliance with the Care Act requirements, but will have the power to charge people retrospectively for care and support they receive during this period.
Care and Support Plans
Local authorities will not have to prepare or review Care and Support Plans under the Care Act but will still be expected to carry out proportionate, person-centred care planning.
Power to meet needs, rather than duty
The duty on local authorities to meet eligible care and support needs, or the support needs of a carer, has been replaced with a mere power to meet needs. This will enable local authorities to concentrate their resources on the people most in need, e.g. by providing enhanced support for people who are ill or self-isolating and to temporarily delay or reduce other care provision.
Full details of the guidance can be found here.