We wrote this time last year about the introduction of easements to the 2014 Care Act via the Coronavirus Act 2020 (see here). These easements allowed local authorities not to carry out certain duties placed up on them by the 2014 Act if the workforce was significantly depleted due to the pandemic or Care Act duties could not be met due to demand.
The introduction of procedures such as Care Act easements was designed as part of disaster planning for a public health worst case scenario. There were concerns about how this might affect private social care providers, for example delays in obtaining a new care plan where a service user had a sudden deterioration requiring increased care.
But in fact the use of easements was fairly limited in the end, and only 8 out of 151 English local authorities used them. A year on, and as part of a planned review, certain sections of the Coronavirus Act 2020 will be allowed to expire, including those that deal with social care easements.
However, what does remain is the facility to enact easements in relation to carrying out NHS continuing healthcare assessments. These were paused last year from March to August 2020 but are now taking place again and efforts are being made to clear the backlog. For private social care providers with service users who are funded by NHS CHC (or indeed may be now eligible), this may impact the care provided if an assessment is outstanding. It remains to be seen whether this backlog and the potential to pause these assessments will translate into an effect on the claims market.
Jennifer Johnson is an Associate at BLM