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Suspension of the Care Act - act immediately

22 March 2020

DR UK has serious concerns about the implications of the Coronavirus Bill on human rights, especially the rights of vulnerable groups, including disabled people.

The second reading of the Bill is on Monday 23 March – tomorrow. We are calling on disabled people to act now, today, on this.

Our key concern is that the Bill suspends the Care Act. The Bill will effectively free local authorities of their duties to provide social care support under the Care Act 2014 and will only oblige local authorities to provide support in cases where the human rights of disabled people will be breached.

Find your MP's contact details:

You can find your MP's contact details here: https://www.writetothem.com/

Letter template:

Template letter to MP
Dear [add your MP’s name]

Coronavirus Bill: Disabled people are in danger

I am writing to ask you to take action to protect the lives of many thousands of Disabled people.  Please raise the issue and if possible table and support the amendments to prevent this from happening.

I believe that the #CoronaVirusBill presents a real and present danger to the lives of Disabled people. The government’s plans for Disabled children and adults during the crisis are effectively rolling back 30 years of progress for Disabled people.  They also come after years of chronic under funding of social care which have resulted in a social care system already at breaking point. The government’s plans are to:

- Remove Disabled people’s rights to social care
- Change the duties to educate to meet children’s educational requirements to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty
- Severely undermine the civil liberties of Disabled people and erode their rights to support.

I understand this is an unprecedented and extremely challenging situation, but given the already broken social care system this Bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of Disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support. Rolling back our rights is not good for anyone and in the current circumstances will put many lives at risk.

Rather than removing Disabled people’s right to social care support the government must treat our essential social care service as key infrastructure, alongside the NHS, and as such it must immediately provide the necessary funding to keep this vital service running.

To explain my reasons for writing to you, please see my understanding of negative social implications of the #CoronaVirusBill on the lives of Disabled people and their families detailed below.  This information was prepared by the barristers who specialise in public law and disability rights.

Yours sincerely,

[Name and full address]

Implications of the Bill for Disabled people
What does it mean for disabled adults? 

The Bill suspends every duty in the Care Act, 2014, including the duty to meet the eligible needs of disabled people (Section 18) and their carers (Section 20).  Under the #CoronaVirus Bill, Local Authorities will only have to provide care ‘if they consider it necessary’ for the purposes of avoiding a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).  There is no human right to social care or positive obligation under the ECHR to meet care needs. See assessment from leading lawyers specialising in Social Care here: https://www.39essex.com/the-coronavirus-bill-schedule-11/

Other changes set to be introduced through the #CoronaVirusBill will allow health bodies to delay carrying out an assessment for eligibility for NHS continuing care

What does it mean for disabled children and young people?

Duties for young people transitioning to adult social care have also been suspended.

The Secretary of State for Education will have power to disapply the duty on schools and other institutions to admit a child to a school where they are named on an EHCP.  The Secretary of State will be able to vary provisions of the act, such as the core duty to procure provision set out in an EHCP, so instead of being an absolute duty it becomes a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty, creating a lesser entitlement for up to two years.

What about the Mental Health Act?

The power to recommend individuals be detained under the Mental Health Act will be implemented using one doctor’s opinion instead of two, making it easier for people to be detained.

The proposed bill will temporarily allow the extension or removal of time limits in mental health legislation which means individuals might be released into the community early, or find themselves detained for longer.

Under section 5, emergency detention for people already in hospital would extend from 72 hours to 120 hours, and nurses’ holding powers would extend from 6 to 12 hours. Under sections 135 and 136, police powers to detain a person found in need of immediate care at a “place of safety” will extend from 24 hours to 36 hours. Under section 35/36, the cap on how long someone can be held in hospital while awaiting a report (currently 12 weeks) will be lifted.

What about the rights of disabled people?

Local authorities will have a duty to uphold disabled people’s human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, BUT the threshold for a breach, in terms of not providing care and support is high, which means that disabled people will be left without care and support. Lack of care and support will have a significant impact on disabled people’s well-being, but may not be considered to reach the threshold for their human rights to have been breached – they will NOT have a right to care and support.

Sources of information

Watch @stevebroach, Public Law Barrister talk about the impact of the Bill here: chttps://www.39essex.com/the-coronavirus-bill-schedule-11/

Read this Twitter thread for more information: https://twitter.com/JamieBurton29/status/1240781535340568577

Statement from National User Survivor Network: https://www.nsun.org.uk/News/covid-19-and-human-rights

Current hashtags: #CoronaVirusBill #CoronavirusBillUK

Inclusion London is driving the campaign about this. Find out more, and find details of how to write to your MP at the Inclusion London website here: https://t.co/OYWexrscvW?amp=1