Coronavirus: Changes to Social Care, NHS Funding and Educational Support

On 25 March 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent. While most of us will be aware of the more familiar aspects of the Act from media coverage, the Act also introduced powers that deal with state provision of care and educational support for vulnerable children and adults.

Social Care

Under a series of “easements” provided by the Act, local authorities no longer have to undertake an assessment of a person’s care needs, as required under the Care Act 2014 in England and under the Social Care and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, nor determine eligibility to have such needs met, or provide a care and support plan to meet those needs.

It should be noted that these provisions are permissive, so that, rather than having an immediate and uniform effect across the country, each Social Care department has been left to make a decision at local level as to whether to apply the easements. Where a local authority makes a decision to apply these easements, it means that it still has the power to carry out needs assessments and meet those needs, but it is not under a duty to do so.

Where a local authority does decide to meet a person’s care needs, the Act removes the obligation on that local authority to carry out an assessment of the person’s ability to pay for any services. However, they have been given powers to carry out financial assessments at a later date, and can charge retrospectively.

People are encouraged to contact their local authority to establish whether it has decided to implement the provisions as we are aware that this information is generally not being publicised at local level.

Continuing Healthcare Funding

The Act also removes the duty of the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Groups in England to undertake an assessment of a person’s eligibility for CHC funding, or to have regard to the National Framework that governs such assessments.

Such assessments are likely to be deferred until after the emergency period and it is anticipated that where it appears to the relevant NHS or CCG body that a person may have such needs, they will be discharged from hospital on a NHS-funded pathway.

Educational Support

Where a child has the benefit of an Education Health Care plan (EHCP) agreed and provided by the local authority, the Act permits the absolute duty of the local authority to make such provision to be replaced with a “reasonable steps” duty. What may amount to reasonable endeavours has not been defined and, to date, local authorities have not been provided with guidance.

Note that these changes will only apply if and when the Secretary of State, or the Welsh Ministers, make an order to this effect. To date, no such order has been made.