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The provision of social and domiciliary care is a devolved matter. In England, the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides for a relaxation of local authority duties around the provision of care and support needs. For example, local authorities will only be under a duty to meet a person’s eligible needs where not doing so would breach their human rights. Similarly, in Wales, the Coronavirus Act suspends provisions in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 unless services are needed to protect an adult from abuse or neglect or a risk of abuse or neglect. In Scotland, the Act has implemented changes to the assessments of care needs that local authorities are required to carry out. The Act has also introduced changes to provision in Northern Ireland, particularly concerning mental capacity practice.

The UK Government contends it has taken such measures to enable local authorities to prioritise the social care services they offer to ensure that the most urgent and serious care needs are met. However, concerns have been expressed that these changes could result in care standards being lowered, putting elderly and disabled people at risk.

Regarding vulnerable children and young people, the Government has published guidance outlining the measures being taken to safeguard them during this period. This includes allowing local authorities to depart from existing practice where there is a clear rationale for doing so. Again, however, this has been criticised by those who contend the circumstances where this would be appropriate are unclear.

In the wider context of the pandemic, many social care homes continue to report significant issues in trying to protect their residents. These issues include a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). There is also concern the true extent of the outbreak amongst social care facilities is still unknown. A number of care homes have recently announced a significant number of fatalities not included in previous mortality statistics. In an open letter to social care staff, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the Government was committed to doing “whatever is needed” to support the sector during this period.

On 23 April 2020, Baroness Wheeler (Labour) is due to move that “this House takes note of the short term and long term impact of the Governments approach to the Covid19 pandemic on the provision and delivery of social and domiciliary care for disabled and vulnerable adults and children, and the urgent need to ensure the sustainability of social care services”. 

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