Responding to the publication of a new report which reviews the experiences of councils and decisions relating to the Care Act easements, James Bullion, ADASS president, said:
‘We all learned a great deal during the first wave of the pandemic, and we must take that learning forward to meet the further challenges we now face. We are keen to work with government to ensure that adult social care is better understood and has the resources to ensure that people’s needs for care and support are met.’
‘What the pandemic is starkly showing us is that people who need adult social care must have parity of esteem with NHS patients. And care services, and those who provide them, must be valued alongside and equally with the NHS.’
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Note to Editors
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, councils in England were given emergency powers to depart from their duties under the Care Act 2014. Instead of carrying out a full assessment to determine whether a person was eligible for adult social care under criteria set down under the Act, they could opt to provide care and support to people whose human rights would otherwise be breached.
In the first wave of the pandemic, only eight English councils out of 152 with social care responsibilities gave notice that they were exercising the option. No single council took advantage of all the so-called ‘easements’ allowed and several of the eight utilised only a small number of the provisions. However, the practice proved controversial and became politicised.
The review of the councils’ experience has been carried out by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) with the support of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), which works to transform health and care through personalisation and community-based support.
ADASS, which contributed to the easements guidance, decided to review also the experience of five councils that did not take up the option to relax Care Act provisions, in order to offer a comparison.
The report finds that:
Guidance should be tightened and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) must help explain what is happening, and why? This would support those councils needing to relax their Care Act obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) needs to do much more in the second wave of the pandemic to help ensure that social care is better understood as an integral part of a single health and care system and to be seen to protect it just as much as it protects the NHS, the review says.
The review suggests:
- The easements guidance should be revisited to make it clearer, and the process of utilising it simpler, for councils that need to resort to it under stress or crisis.
- The DHSC should help explain why any temporary easement is thought necessary in context of sustaining the wider health and care system.
- Councils utilising easements should explain what they are doing, and why, to individuals receiving care and support, and to groups representing them, at the earliest practical stage.
- The DHSC should address a widely held perception that its approach during the first wave of the pandemic was ‘hospital-centric’ and contributed to a lack of public understanding of the wider system and of adult social care in particular.
The review found that some councils have taken on additional responsibility during the pandemic for coordinating support for people considered ‘clinically vulnerable’ or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, such as rough sleepers or prisoners on early release. This had the effect of widening access to adult social care, rather than narrowing it.
For any follow up to the statement above, please contact:
Dr Phil McCarvill
Deputy Chief Officer
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)