News story legal challenge

16th April 2020 • Emma Cooper

The Government has finally published its plan for adult social care in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as focusing on the older people who rely on social care services, the action plan recognises the fact that over a quarter of a million people under 65 receive vital support for mental health, physical support or support living with learning disabilities.

The long awaited plan sets out the government’s approach for all settings and contexts in which people receive adult social care. This includes:

• People’s own homes
• Residential care homes and nursing homes
• Other community settings

It applies to people with direct payments and personal budgets, and those who fund their own care. It supports the response services for the people who rely on technology-enabled care and monitoring services. The plan states that the government expects local authorities, CCGs and direct payment holders to adopt a more flexible approach to the use of direct payments, so that people can continue to control how their needs are met. Guidance setting out further details on this is due to be published soon.

Unpaid carers

The plan recognises that unpaid carers will often have particular needs that make social distancing requirements even more challenging, such as only being able to leave the home for short periods, or not being able to shop alone, and they may be challenged about their movements. These needs are not always well understood, so the government will be asking local commissioners and providers to provide letters enabling unpaid carers to identify themselves and their needs, so these can be more easily met by retailers and others. Unfortunately there was no mention of any plans to increase Carer’s Allowance.

Training

The plan acknowledges that people with a learning disability, autistic people, and people experiencing serious mental ill health are likely to experience particular difficulties during the pandemic. This could include difficulty understanding and following advice on social distancing, and increased anxiety. They may need additional support to recognise and respond to symptoms quickly, and in some cases be at greater risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19.

According to the plan, the workforce, including new recruits, will be trained to respond to these conditions appropriately. The government will support providers to embed this in their training in relation to their role, whether they require basic awareness training or more specialist knowledge and skills.

The Government will be publishing guidance for social care providers of services and for family carers of people with a learning disability and autistic adults. They are also working with partners to develop detailed resources and information for care providers, family carers, and professionals that work with these groups. This guidance will be published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and will be regularly updated throughout this period. You can read guidance for responding to COVID-19 in supported living settings here.

In response to the adult social care plan, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said,

‘Social care is just as important in the national response, having nearly twice as many workers as the NHS, and further supported by as many as 8.8 million unpaid carers looking after family members and friends in homes. A plan for our sector should have come sooner.
‘It’s good that testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) are now being prioritised for social care workers who need it most, but it is vital that it reaches them. There must also be enough for unpaid carers, some of whom are caring for extremely vulnerable people, including those who are shielding.

‘It’s also right that the Government is working to ensure that people have the right to say goodbye to those who pass away, and this will be incredibly important for families looking after loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill.

‘We are glad to receive funding from the Government towards our helpline which is a crucial port of call for unpaid carers at the moment. They have lots of questions and concerns about how they will manage in the weeks ahead, especially where their support services have been reduced.

‘Unpaid carers tell us they feel they haven’t been sufficiently recognised in the national response to coronavirus so far. This plan goes some way to providing the recognition they need, if it is delivered. Carers need further recognition of the extra precautions they are taking, recognition of the many extra hours of unpaid care they are providing, recognition of the huge anxiety they are experiencing as they try to protect their loved ones.
‘Going forward we need Government to look at other aspects of caring that are extremely challenging, including a rise in Carer’s Allowance – the lowest benefit of its kind at just £67.25 a week – to help carers manage financially.’