Coronavirus Act 2020 – affects for Care of Children and Mental Health Issues

How will the new amendments to the Coronavirus Act 2020 affect The Care Act 2014 and the Mental Health Act 1983?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 was recently updated on the 31 March 2020, labelled “Commencement 2 – New Regulations 2020”. This new edit to the bill aimed to respond to the current Covid-19 epidemic more effectively and further enable authorities to prioritise resources. The Bill has four key categories; enhancing the flexibility in the deployment of key workers, easing legislative requirements, containing and slowing the virus, and managing the increase of the deceased. The Coronavirus Act 2020 will be in place for a period of 2 years, however this could be lengthened or shortened, as it will be reviewed every 6 months.

This article will specifically look at how the Coronavirus Act 2020 impacts those who are vulnerable, carers, children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and those who fall under the Mental Health Act 1983.

 

How will the Coronavirus Act 2020 affect The Care Act 2014?:

The Coronavirus Act 2020 suspends most duties the government is required to follow in the Care Act 2014 during this crisis. This presents many new changes to those who are affected by the Care Act 2014 (GOV.UK, 2020).

Under Section 18 of the Care Act, Social Services are usually required to carry out regular assessments on those who may be deemed as having ‘eligible needs”. People who fall under this term are; vulnerable adults, adult carers, disabled children in transition and their carers and young carers who appear to have needs for care and support. The Care Act 2014 originally gave Social Services the obligation to meet all of their social care needs.

However the change in legislation means that Social Services will no longer have to carry out these assessments, potentially weakening the duty for Section 18 of the Care Act to meet vulnerable adult’s needs for care and support. The Act also has to be suspended for reviews by the Local Authorities (LA) on future care plans for vulnerable adults and their carers, and plans on how to provide care for those who move between Local Authorities.

Unfortunately, Local Authorities will also no longer have to comply with their duties to assess children’s needs for continuing to be under care, after the age of 18 years old. Originally, this act (Chapter 16), allowed a transition for children in care who recently turned 18 years of age “into adult care and support”. However, this assessment no longer needs to be carried out.

Those involved within Social Care believe that these changes in the LA’s duties may mean that young people turning 18 are likely to face a very shaky and uncertain future. This is because they may not only be a danger to themselves but also pose a public risk, if they are not able to be supported in staying isolated at home (Rethink.org, 2020).

How will the Coronavirus Act 2020 affect The Mental Health Act 1983?:

The Mental Health Act during Covid-19 has been put under immense strain, as workers must continue to provide effective care throughout this epidemic in order to ensure the safety and treatment of those severely affected by Mental Health Disorders. The Coronavirus Act 2020 will temporarily affect this as the government is concerned that Covid-19 will reduce the number of Mental Health professionals available. Possible changes will include the relaxation of detaining people, to avoid those “languishing in hospital” for long periods of time (NHS, 2020).

Detainment applications which are submitted by approved Mental Health Workers under Section 2/3 on whether a person should be detained or not, will now only need to be established by only 1 professional. As recommendations from 2 professionals will cause further delay.  Furthermore, the Act will also allow the removal or extension of time-limits for those who have to be detained (from 72 hours to 120). This means that people may be detained for longer without their cases being reviewed as regularly.

Whilst these changes in legislation will understandably cause worry amongst people, a joint statement from the government explains that these changes are necessary for keeping the population safe:

  “This is not about singling out mental health patients, but unlike other areas, temporary legislative and regulatory changes are required to allow services to flex to ensure the appropriate care continues to be available in extremely challenging circumstances.”

Rethink.com reminds those who may be affected by these changes to understand your Human Rights. Whilst Local Authorities may have relaxed sections within legislation, it is still in their duty to meet your basic needs. Failure to do so means a breach in your basic human rights.

  • Your human rights are included under The Human Rights Act 1998, this can be viewed in the link below:

 www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights/human-rights-act  

  • For children, I have included a summary of The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child 1989. This is an international treaty, signed by the United Kingdom providing human rights for children:

https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention

Please remember that SMQ are Oxford solicitors are here to help answer any questions that you have. We also have team members located in Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire. We are declared as “Key Workers” by the government meaning that we are open like usual and will be working our hardest to support all our clients and those seeking legal advice. We offer free 20 minute telephone appointments for all new clients.

 

Written by Olivia Mann

Paralegal

References:

Gov.UK (2020) – Coronavirus (COVID-19): Changes to the Care Act 2014 [online] available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-changes-to-the-care-act-2014

Rethink.Org (2020) Social care and coronavirus – temporary changes to the law [online] available at https://www.rethink.org/news-and-stories/blogs/2020/03/social-care-and-coronavirus-temporary-changes-to-the-law

Moore, P. NHS Confederation. (2020). First do no harm: relaxing parts of the Mental Health Act during COVID-19 | Sean Duggan and Dr Phil Moore. [online]. Available at: https://www.nhsconfed.org/blog/2020/04/relaxing-parts-of-the-mental-health-act-during-covid19

 

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