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Peers letter to Health Minister on Care Act Easements

09 September 2020

 

 

 

 

From: The Baroness Campbell of Surbiton DBE

        The Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE DL

House of Lords

London SW1A 0PW

 

 

 

 

 

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

Secretary of State

Department of Health and Social Care

39 Victoria Street

London

SW1H 0EU

 

9 September 2020

 

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to you today as a cross-party group of peers with an interest in the rights and wellbeing of disabled people to urge you to switch off the Care Act easement powers for local authorities contained within the Coronavirus Act 2020.

We are particularly concerned that Schedule 12 of the Act allows councils to suspend statutory care and support responsibilities stipulated under the Care Act 2014 unless doing so breaches human rights. You stated publicly that this emergency measure was only intended to be used when staff depletion, due to illness or increasing demand on social care, made it impossible to comply with Care Act duties without putting lives at risks. However, there is evidence that ‘easements’ were operated (some believed unnecessarily), the consequences of which a had a serious impact on their well-being and safety.

Since the powers took effect on March 31, eight councils officially implemented easements. We understand that by July, such easements had ceased. We are grateful that councils have been restrained when taking up these powers in a very strained and difficult time. It is truly heartening that after their use at the peak of the pandemic, we have now reached a period where no council sees the need to operate easements. With this in mind, we urge you to take this opportunity to switch them off. This would significantly reduce the anxiety felt for those who rely on care and support to live in the community.

Everybody has been affected by this pandemic – emotionally, socially, economically or in terms of mental and physical health – but we believe these effects have not been proportionately distributed. ONS figures show that disabled people have made up two thirds of all deaths, while the added pressures of shielding, difficulty accessing food and transport and regulations on face masks and distancing have had a vastly unequal impact on disabled people. Even in areas where councils have not applied easements, disabled people have seen their care provision cut.  

The interim findings from a Covid-19 Be Human RACA (Register, advice, conciliation and arbitration) survey conducted by In Control Partnerships, revealed instances of cancelled support, denied access to assessments and decreased flexibility. From other discussions with disabled people’s organisations, we know the level of fear and anxiety that has been caused by the prospect of easements continuing is worryingly high. We recognise that local authorities find themselves under unique circumstances and pressure. However, reductions to care put the rights of disabled people and those who rely on social care at risk and create the opportunity for discrimination to occur.

We are pleased that no council now reports operating easements. But still the prospect of their use hangs over the heads of people already so disproportionately affected by this pandemic. We now appeal to you to relieve this anxiety and switch off these unused and unnecessary powers.

Yours sincerely,

 

Guy L’Etang

pp.

The Baroness Campbell of Surbiton DBE

The Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE DL.

 

(Letter approved by Baroness Campbell and Baroness Grey-Thompson – signed and sent in their absence to ensure rapid delivery)

 

Please be advised that colleagues in the House of Lords have asked for their signatures to be added to this letter – they are listed below:

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Brinton

Lord Browne of Ladyton

Lord Cashman

Baroness Corston

Baroness Cox

Baroness Crawley

Baroness D’Souza

Lord Dubs

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Baroness Gale

Lord Greaves

Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Baroness Hussein-Ece

Lord Judd

Baroness Meacher

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

Baroness Prashar

Baroness Prosser

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Lord Rennard

Lord Starkey

Baroness Stern

Baroness Thomas of Winchester

Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock