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Date published: April 3, 2020

Local authorities and the coronavirus act

During the Covid-19 outbreak, the government have taken temporary, emergency measures to ease the burden on care services in the exceptional circumstances of the crisis. The Coronavirus act means the legal responsibility to provide care has been eased in some situations, and our policy officer Rebecca Viney-Wood has produced guidance on what this could mean for the rights of people with support needs in a Shared Lives setting.

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On 25 March, the parliament at Westminster passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 into law. This act is temporary, and the government has stated that they will only ‘switch on’ the new powers in the act when needed. The Coronavirus Act will be in place for two years and will be reviewed every six months. Not all the measures listed in the act will come into force immediately.

The ‘easement’ power

One section of the act which has been ‘switched on’, is the one designed to ease the burden on frontline social care staff. This part of the act is often referred to as the ‘easement’ power. The easement power means that local authorities could reduce or even stop providing care to some people if the local situation becomes critical. This part of the act has raised some concerns about the implications for human rights of specific groups, such as people with disabilities.

This guide outlines what the Coronavirus Act 2020 is changing from the existing laws in England and Wales. As of today, 3 April, neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland have ‘switched on’ the easements. We are monitoring the situation in all nations.