Social care changes during the coronavirus crisis

10th April 2020

In our latest blog, Craig Smith, Public Affairs Officer at SAMH, explores changes to social care during the coronavirus crisis.

We are living through strange and challenging times, with the effects of coronavirus being felt across all areas of our lives.  For people being supported by social care services, or for people seeking social care support, in many cases this means big changes to the way that support is being arranged and delivered. We know this can be worrying and stressful;  so here’s an outline of some changes to how people are being assessed and charged for social care during this crisis.

Social Care Assessments

This week the Scottish Government published statutory guidance to local authorities. This guidance outlines how emergency coronavirus legislation passed by the Scottish and UK parliaments changes the ways that local authorities  can assess people for social care.

It is important to keep in mind that the changes are not currently in force. It is up to the Scottish Government to ‘switch on’ the new provisions of the legislation. This will happen at times where local authorities need to focus their resources on supporting the most vulnerable.

Currently, if someone may require social care, a full social care assessment will be undertaken, usually by a social worker. Following this, the most appropriate care package is put in place. If the new provisions are switched on then local authorities will no longer be required to carry out a full assessment. Instead ‘partial’ or ‘short’ assessments can be carried out.

So what does this mean in practice?

  • Assessments can be carried out by social care staff instead of a social worker; except from in cases where there are complex vulnerabilities or child and adult protection concerns.
  • In cases where care decisions are likely to be “life changing”, full assessments must still be carried out. For example where someone is likely to be moved permanently into a care home.
  • Assessments may be shorter than usual and may happen over the phone or by video.
  • Safety is a priority with assessments to be focused on any risk the person faces; their ability to keep active; relationships with family and other caregivers; and their ability to live independently.
  • A partial assessment will result in a temporary care plan outlining the care and support they will receive. A full assessment will be carried out following the coronavirus crisis.

Charging for Social Care

Currently local authorities can charge for some aspects of social care, including residential care and support delivered to people in their own home. SAMH has long been concerned about people being charged for their care. We are clear that in the long term, social care charges should be abolished as set out in our SAMH’s View here.

The emergency legislation for coronavirus includes changes to when and what care can be charged for, while the crisis continues. So what are the main changes?

  • Local authorities can continue to charge people for care where they have an existing care plan in place.
  • Local authorities cannot charge people for care if they have not had a full assessment and where they have a temporary care plan.
  • Charges for people who become permanent residential care residents  during the crisis can be backdated to the time they first became a resident.

 At SAMH we are closely monitoring all the changes to care and support at this time. We’ll continue to keep you updated on changes as they happen.

For more detail about how social care is being delivered in your area visit your local authority website.

For more on mental health and wellbeing, visit the SAMH coronavirus information hub