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Peers ask Health Secretary to restore Care Act rights

22 September 2020

Baroness Jane Campbell and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson have led a group of 30 peers in writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for the restoration of the rights of disabled people under the Care Act which were removed under the Coronavirus Act. 

Pressure is growing on the government to restore the provisions in the Care Act after 60 NGOs joined DR UK in signing a statement also calling for the restoration of rights.

 

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

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:

1. Lord Alton of Liverpool

2. Baroness Brinton

3. Lord Browne of Ladyton

4. Lord Cashman

5. Baroness Corston

6. Baroness Cox

7. Baroness Crawley

8. Baroness D’Souza

9. Lord Dubs

10. Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

11. Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

12. Baroness Gale

13. Lord Greaves

14. Lord Harries of Pentregarth

15. Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

16. Baroness Hussein-Ece

17. Lord Judd

18. Baroness Meacher

19. Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

20. Baroness Prashar

21. Baroness Prosser

22. Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

23. Lord Rennard

24. Lord Starkey

25. Baroness Stern

26. Baroness Thomas of Winchester

27. Baroness Walmsley

28. Baroness Watkins of Tavistock