The needs of many sick and disabled people have changed during the pandemic. This may be because of a decline in their health or wellbeing or because they now have limited access to support or services they ordinarily receive. The UK’s millions of unpaid carers are under greater pressure than ever before. Are you a carer? If so, this is intended to provide you with some important information about support for those you care for and you as a carer. 

Social services support 

  • Social services usually have duties to assess needs of and provide care and support to a number lot of adults with illness or disabilities and to carers, under the Care Act 2014.
  • Emergency measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020 change many of these duties (because councils may simply become unable to fulfil these if their staff numbers are significantly depleted or the demand for support in their areas increases too much). These emergency measures are called ‘Care Act easements’. Care Act easements may affect those who already receive support from social services, as well as anybody who might need support for the first time. 
  • However, this does not mean social services no longer have any responsibilities to help adults with illnesses or disabilities or their carers. Social services should continue to comply with their duties to assess needs and provide support under the Care Act wherever possible. They should continue to do so unless it is no longer possible to do so without creating a risk that the most serious needs might not be met, potentially risking lives. Even when councils have taken the decision to depart from Care Act duties, social services still have powers to continue to assess needs and provide support to adults and their carers. Moreover, social services cannot refuse to help if doing so would breach human rights.
  • The government has published guidance on Care Act easements for local authorities 

 Issues you might be worried about 

Has the person you care for been classed as vulnerable and are they self-isolating or being shielded? Are you worried about them getting all the care they need or keeping them safe?

If so, care support may be available from social services to them at home if you cannot meet their needs alone. The government has published guidance about how home care services should be provided in a way that minimises risk of transmission of the virus. If you are caring for them, there is guidance about additional support you can access for them and about how you can help to maintain a safe environment for them and provide care in a safe way.

Have you or the person you care for lost support because of social distancing measures, self-isolation or shielding?

If you or the person you care for cannot access support from friends or family that you usually get then you might be able to gain some help from social services to prevent a decline in health or wellbeing. If you or the person you care for usually receive a care package from social services but cannot access services, you can ask for consideration to be given to alternative ways of providing care and support, so you/they are not left without support to meet assessed needs. 

Are you worried about not getting a break from caring?

Carers who usually have some respite from caring responsibilities might not have breaks from their caring role anymore, which may place them under so much pressure the care relationship could breakdown completely. They may need support from social services in their own right to sustain their caring role. There is government advice about the ways to keep yourself and those you care for safe. 

Are you worried about what will happen if the person you care for is going to be discharged from hospital to residential care home?

NHS guidance requires all patients to be discharged from hospital as soon as possible during the pandemic. Adults who require a high level of care upon discharge may need to move into residential care homes, where some residents may have symptoms of or have tested positive for Covid-19. Where this occurs, the safety of residents in these placements and those being newly admitted, including how they might be shielded or protected from contracting Covid-19, should be carefully considered in care planning.  The person you care for and you (as their carer) should always be consulted in decisions about their care and you are entitled to express concerns and preferences. There is government guidance on specific steps to be taken when persons are discharged from hospital to residential care homes

Are you worried that the person you care for has been told there is a ‘do not resuscitate’/ReSPECT instruction on their medical or care file, but this is not in line with their wishes?

Some disabled and vulnerable adults may be subject to judgments about whether they should be resuscitated if they become seriously unwell during the pandemic. There are strict guidelines about:

(a) how decisions should be taken about whether to treat or resuscitate seriously unwell people, and

(b) imposing advance ‘do not resuscitate’ instructions on medical or care files of those with illnesses/disabilities (particularly adults who have learning disabilities, autism or certain physical conditions but who are otherwise healthy).

The person you care for and family/carers should be consulted in these decisions, have the opportunity to raise concerns about clinical decisions and if advance instructions do not accord with a patient’s wishes a request can be made for these to be removed.