Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
The last year has vividly demonstrated the compassion and commitment of people in Wales as they care for one another.
The pandemic, together with the public health measures, which have been introduced to protect people’s health, have had a profound impact on people’s lives, including, at times, their ability to access the full range of care and support, normally available. Coronavirus has also put additional pressures and demands on unpaid carers and families.
We keep all measures introduced to help us manage the pandemic under constant review. At the end of last year, I asked my officials to engage with stakeholders about whether to retain Section 15 of, and Part 2 of Schedule 12 to, the Coronavirus Act 2020.
These provisions modify certain duties of local authorities in relation to adult social care under Parts 3 and 4 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (the 2014 Act).
Almost 100 responses were received from individuals and organisations. Around two-thirds supported the suspension of the provisions.
In response to those views, I am giving Members of the Senedd notice of my intention to suspend section 15 and Part 2 of Schedule 12 to the Coronavirus Act 2020 on 22 March 2021. The regulations necessary to suspend these provisions follow the “no procedure” process and will come into force shortly after the date on which they are made.
Concerns have been expressed about the 2020 Act provisions and their impact on individuals. The modifications within the 2020 Act have never provided authority to block, restrict or withdraw services. Their purpose was to enable local authorities to make temporary, person-centred decisions about care and support during the pandemic and ensure those with highest need are prioritised using the overarching principles and core values for social care.
The provisions ensured that, if it had become necessary, difficult decisions could be taken more effectively than they could have done under the 2014 Act prior to its modification.
No local authority in Wales has implemented the 2020 Act provisions, albeit that a number of individuals have directed or experienced adjustments to their care and support due to the impact of the pandemic on staffing and other vital resources. It is testament to the commitment and dedication of the leadership and workforce that local authorities have not had to implement the modifications and is further evidence of the incredible response made by everyone within the social care sector.
Throughout the pandemic, we have ensured that duties under the Equality Act have remained unchanged, as have duties to have regard to the relevant conventions and principles relating to human rights, older people and disabled people.
Discussions and decisions relating to care and support were supported and informed by the Ethical Framework for Social Care.
I expect local authorities to continue to ensure care and support arrangements are sustainable. The ability of people to cope during a period of crisis is not an indication of their ability to provide care and support for prolonged periods. Local authorities must continue to ensure that decisions made by individuals and their families as a direct result of the pandemic are not used as evidence for determining whether or how to meet needs for the future.
Where adjustments to care and or support have been necessary, the onus should not be on individuals or their families to ensure that their care and support is restored.