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23 March, 2021 Open access

Government to legislate to expire provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that allow local authorities to operate ‘care act easements’

One-year review highlights that only eight local authorities in England have used the powers, with none having used them since 29 June 2020

The government has said that it will legislate to expire provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) that allow local authorities to operate 'care act easements'.

In a new report on its one-year review of the 2020 Act, including an in-depth assessment of its non-devolved provisions, the government says that the decision has been made to expire twelve sections that are no longer seen as necessary to respond to the pandemic, including section 15 that relates to 'Local authority care and support' in England and Wales.

NB - sections 15 to 17 and schedule 12 of the 2020 Act replaced the duties on local authorities - in Part 1 of the Care Act 2014 in England and corresponding legislation in Wales and Scotland - to assess and meet needs for care and support, with a power to meet those needs in all cases except where not to do so would be a breach of an individual’s human rights.

However, while the government advises that section 15 has enabled local authorities to continue to meet the most urgent and acute needs in the face of Covid-19 by 'relaxing some duties', it highlights that only eight local authorities in England have used the powers, with none having used them since 29 June 2020, and that -

'Despite initial concerns over the impact of the pandemic local authorities have coped with significant pressures over winter using the existing Care Act flexibilities and are now in a better position in terms of planning, support and use of mutual aid.

The Department of Health and Social Care's latest review sought views of stakeholder groups, including people who use care and support services and regional support leads. While some councils felt they had been helpful and were keen to retain the powers should they be needed in future, the majority of stakeholders felt they were unlikely to be used again. In addition to this, the perception among those who need care and support that care could be withdrawn had caused some anxiety.'

As a result, the government says that, following debates to be held in both Houses on the one-year review, it will bring forward regulations 'at some point' after the Easter recess to expire the provision.

For more information, see Coronavirus Act one-year report: March 2021 from gov.uk