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What does the Coronavirus Act mean for social care and MS?

Social care is facing growing pressures as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Coronavirus Act allows individual local authorities (councils), from 31 March 2020, to declare they are in an ‘emergency period’.

During this time, they must try to make sure everyone gets the care and support they need, and would normally have a right to. But, if necessary to make sure people with the highest needs get care and support, they may make changes.

Assessments and reviews might be carried out in a more ‘light-touch’ way to usual, or particular services (for example homecare) be changed or restricted.

It could also mean less support for people with existing care packages. An emergency period would be reviewed every two weeks, with the aim to return to normal as soon as possible, and councils should do everything possible to avoid an emergency in the first place.

What are the key changes in the law?

  1. Councils will not have to carry out detailed assessments of people’s care and support needs. They will still be expected to respond as quickly as possible to requests for care and support, consider the needs and wishes of people needing care and their family and carers, and make a written assessment of what care needs to be provided. This assessment will take place virtually, or over the phone as far as possible.
  2. Councils will not be legally required to meet all eligible care and support needs, or the support needs of a carer. But they will be still be expected to take all reasonable steps to meet these needs. If demand pressures are so high that they can’t do that, then they will be allowed to prioritise supporting people with the most urgent needs, and to temporarily delay or reduce other care and support services.
  3. Councils will not have to develop comprehensive care and support plans or reviews of existing plans. But they must still talk to you about your needs and involve you in any decisions about your care or potential changes.
  4. Councils will not have to carry out a detailed assessment of how much you might have to pay towards your care. They will do this at a later date and charge you for the care you have received. They still have to give you information about how much care costs and how to pay for it.

What hasn’t changed?

Councils still have a legal duty to:

  1. safeguard people from harm or neglect
  2. provide or arrange services that help prevent people developing needs for care and support or delay people deteriorating to a point where they need ongoing care and support
  3. provide comprehensive information and advice about care and support services in their local area
  4. involve people and carers in decisions about any potential changes to their care package and care plans
  5. avoid charging unpaid carers for support they receive, as far as possible
  6. take into account all elements of a person's life that might impact on their needs. For example, social issues like domestic abuse, financial issues, recognising where reliance on an unpaid carer would be not be appropriate

What if I pay for my own care?

This information applies if you pay for your own care. Your council or care provider should contact you about any potential changes to your care.

What does this mean if I use Direct Payments to employ a personal assistant or carer?

If you receive Direct Payments from your local council then this information applies to you too. The UK government will publish more guidance on Direct Payments soon. Personal assistants (PAs) are included in the definition of a Health and Social Care key worker.

UK government advice on providing safe care

The government has published advice for anyone providing care, so they can keep doing so safely as far as possible.

This includes what to do if care workers or people being cared for have symptoms of COVID-19

Making a complaint

If you don’t feel you're getting the care and support you need, contact your council (this might be your social worker) and care provider.

If you don’t get the response you hoped for, contact our MS Helpline or the MS Legal Officer at the Disability Law Service

Your right to complain to your local authority about the care and support you receive stays the same.

Read the Citizens Advice UK’s advice about making a complaint

Remember you're not alone

We're here for you. If you’re worried about your MS and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

If you'd like to talk your worries through online with other people who know MS, visit our Online Community Forum today.

You can also join one of our Time to Chat or Virtual Wellbeing sessions and connect online with others living with MS across the UK. Or you could sign up for an information webinar. We've got plenty to choose from, take a look at our online sessions and see what suits you.