UK Government Announces Temporary Changes To Key Social Work Legislation In Response To COVID-19.
The UK government has announced what the proposed Coronavirus Bill will do to tackle the health and social care needs of people in the UK and reduce the burden on front-line health and social care staff.
The plan makes temporary changes to key pieces of legislation that might be necessary to give public bodies the tools and powers needed to ensure that they are able to offer an effective response at a time of potentially depleted work-forces and with a view to ensuring the safety to service users and workers.
The legislation – which will be time limited to 2 years allows the 4 UK governments to use them when needed and crucially the ability to cease the amendments when it is felt they are no longer needed.
Increase to the Social Care Workforce:
Increase in Social Work and Social Care workforce. This will include the ability for recently retired social workers to re-register. In Scotland, student social workers will be allowed to temporarily become social workers).
Mental Health Act (1983):
The emergency powers will allow for the detention and treatment of people with urgent need for treatment of a mental disorder to be implemented using one doctors opinion. This reduces the need for 2 Doctors to attend assessments as is the current procedure under the Mental Health Act (1983).
Temporary allow extension or removal of time limits in Mental Health legislation to allow for greater flexibility where services are less able to respond. It is envisaged that this could effect s.136 and s5(2) of the Mental Health Act.
Care Act 2014:
Allow changes to the Care Act in England and the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2914 to enable local authorities to prioritise the services they offer in order to ensure that the most urgent and serious care needs are met.
Local authorities will still be expected to do as much as they can to comply with their duties to meet needs during this period and these amendments would not remove the duty of care they have towards an individual’s risk of serious neglect or harm.
These powers would only be used if demand pressures and workforce illness during the pandemic meant that local authorities were at imminent risk of failing to fulfil their duties and only last the duration of the emergency. It would ensure that local authorities will continue to be able to deliver the best possible care services during the peak and to protect the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.
The bill also proposes temporarily relaxation of local authorities’ duties in relation to their duties to conduct a needs assessment and prepare an adult carer support plan/young care statement under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 and the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 to enable them to prioritise people with the greatest needs.