A new Coronavirus bill will enable local authorities to prioritise the services they offer.
This may mean not meeting everyone’s assessed needs in full or delaying some assessments, in order that the most urgent and serious care needs are met. Local authorities are, however, mandated to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period.
Amendments would not remove the duty of care they have towards an individual’s risk of serious neglect or harm.
The bill makes changes to the Care Act 2014 in England and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, and will be time-limited – for two years.
Not all the bill’s measures will come into force immediately: the four UK governments will be able to switch on and off new powers when necessary, and based on expert medical advice.
The bill enables action in five key areas:
- increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)
- easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations
- containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers
- managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
- supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies
The Government expects the bill to become law from the end of this month. However, the provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay are intended to have retrospective effect to 13 March.