KEN LEE reports on the latest controversy to hit Fisher’s Folly
The leader of council was today demanding an apology from the Law Society – the governing body of all solicitors in England and Wales – after it published a report claiming that Croydon had used emergency provisions in the Coronavirus Act to pull the plug on its social care duties for the borough’s disabled adults.
The report in The Law Society Gazette claimed that eight local authorities, including Croydon, had activated “one of the Coronavirus Act’s most controversial measures”.
The news brought a wave of outrage from families, parents and carers, who rightly fear losing vital support from their local authority at what is already an extremely difficult time because of the covid-19 lockdown and the re-assignment of NHS resources to deal with the pandemic.
But by lunchtime, the report had been removed from the website, with Tony Newman, the leader of the council, tweeting at the Law Society: “I think you owe Croydon an apology.”
The Gazette had reported that the directors of adult social care at eight local authorities, including some city and county councils, had introduced “easements” to their duties under the 2014 Care Act.
This would mean that, “They no longer have a duty to carry out assessments of individuals’ and carers’ needs, the provision of detailed care plans, or the duty to meet the needs of someone assessed as eligible for care and support.”
Among the authorities to have activated the emergency measures is Birmingham City Council.
“Birmingham City Council has placed a statement online, though it is not prominent,” according to the Gazette.
“As a result of implementing the Coronavirus Act ‘powers’, the council said, ‘the local authority will now be streamlining processes under the Care Act’.”
The government’s guidance on “easements” – the relaxation, even abandonment of statutory services – says that this can only be done when the local council’s workforce, “… is significantly depleted, or demand on social care increased, to an extent that it is no longer reasonably practicable for it to comply with its pre-Coronavirus Act duties under the Care Act”, according to the Gazette.
Some parents and carers, alerted to the Law Society Gazette report, used social media to question councillors and the council leader, Newman, who offered assurances that adult social care services are, and will remain, secure.
Because of the pandemic crisis, councils across the country have already been given permission to suspend many of their services and assessments for SEN – special educational needs and disabilities – provided for children and young adults.
The notion that things have reached a point where England’s second city has had to consider implementing such emergency measures ought to be a cause of absolute outrage.
In south London, the apparent misreporting by the Gazette of the situation in this borough was greeted with some relief and a smattering of cynicism: “Few residents will have been surprised if these measures had been implemented in Croydon,” said one.
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