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02 February 2022

Social care services under Covid

First paper from our examination of easements to the Care Act 2014

Coronavirus Act 2020

Funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research, this study explores how and why ‘easements’ to the Care Act 2014 were used and what impact they might have had on adult social care during the pandemic.

To reduce pressures on local authority (LA) adult social care services, the government eased LAs’ duties to the Care Act 2014 as part of the measures brought in by the Coronavirus Act 2020. The ‘easements’ were implemented by eight authorities and used by seven. All had ceased to use them by July 2020 and no other LA adopted them. The legislation was revoked in July 2021 following a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care. The measures allowed by the legislation and enacted by Statutory Guidance included suspending Care Act assessments and reviews, and, if necessary, suspending care and support in order to meet the urgent and acute needs of some individuals.

Dr Mary Baginsky, Emily Thomas and Professor Jill Manthorpe have analysed literature and documents and interviewed key stakeholders in social care to understand Care Act easements. This article focuses on findings from interviews with key informants working in the adult social care sector, including lawyers, government officials, and advisors in leading charities and smaller grass-roots charities. Introduced during a period of uncertainty and crisis, the easements were intended to aid LA management of adult social care services. However, those sceptical of the easements were uncomfortable with the human rights implications of the measures and were disappointed that the government’s response to COVID-19 was to enable the withdrawal of support to older and disabled people rather than shore up a system which was already struggling.

The article assesses the introduction and reaction to easements, setting out the context for future publications which will present findings from further interviews with those working in LAs and organisations that support and/or represent people accessing care and support.

This publication

Baginsky, M., Thomas, E. & Manthorpe, J (2022) The Coronavirus Act’s Easements to the Care Act 2014: A Pragmatic Response or a Red Herring?The British Journal of Social Work.

In this story

Mary Baginsky

Reader in Social Care

Jill Manthorpe

Professor Emerita of Social Work