An explanation of the 'general power of competence' available to local authorities and other bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Local authorities are key players in the local response to coronavirus, including because of their statutory responsibility for social care and because of their role in local resilience forums, which are responsible for pandemic planning.
The Government has stated that social care “will be at the frontline of [its] response to COVID-19, with social care providers looking after many of the most vulnerable in society.” This page briefly sets out the Government’s actions to date.
Cross sector taskforce
On 9 March 2020, the Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced that the Government had set up a new task force to strengthen local plans to help tackle the outbreak of coronavirus. The taskforce, the announcement stated, will bring together senior experts from across key sectors, including adult social care, who will “assess Local Resilience Forum plans and provide support and advice to ensure they are robust.”
Budget 2020 measures
In the Budget on 11 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a £12 billion package of support for public services, individuals and businesses aﬀected by COVID-19.
The support includes a £5 billion COVID-19 response fund, which, the budget document stated, “will fund pressures in the NHS, support local authorities to manage pressures on social care and support vulnerable people, and help deal with pressures on other public services.” It added that “the size of the fund will be reviewed as the situation develops, to ensure all necessary resources are made available.”
There was some criticism that the Budget did not provide any emergency funding explicitly for social care. For example, in response to the budget, the Chief Executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, was reported as stating:
The chancellor’s Budget gave unlimited support to the NHS to fight the coronavirus and whilst very welcome there was no mention of social care.It will be nigh impossible to ensure the safety of this country without the involvement and adequate resourcing of adult social care. This was an oversight by the government and despite its commitment to getting social care done it underlines the lack of understanding about the interrelationship between health and social care. Are we no further forward?
In his statement later on 11 March 2020, the Health Secretary emphasised, however, that the funding was for social care as well as the NHS:
It is important to stress that this is for social care, too. We want to make sure that the social care system has everything that it needs to respond to this crisis, because we entirely understand both the strains on the social care system should a large proportion of the population fall ill, but also the importance of the social care system, because that is where so many vulnerable people either reside, if they are in a care home, or are supported. He asked whether we will have to wait for the spending review for any top-up. The Chancellor made it quite clear in the Budget that we will not.
On 13 March, the Government published updated guidance for councils and care providers on COVID-19. There is separate guidance for residential care, supporting living and home care provision setting out:
- how to maintain delivery of care in the event of an outbreak or widespread transmission of COVID-19
- what to do if care workers or individuals being cared for have symptoms of COVID-19.
- contact all registered providers in their local authority area and facilitate plans for mutual aid. It is vital that these plans also include care homes that provide services mainly or solely to people who fund their own care and are not limited only to providers from whom the local authority directly commissions care. The Care Quality Commission publishes information about all regulated care services on its online Directory
- consider the need to work closely with local community health services and primary care networks to support care home provision and draw up a plan for how and when this will be triggered. This should include planning with all of the assets available to the community, including the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.
- take stock of how to maintain viable care home provision during the outbreak of COVID-19, including financial resilience. The Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, and the provider representative bodies will be publishing best practice on financial resilience
The guidance for supporting living states that local authorities should:
- ensure their list of individuals in receipt of supported living is up to date and establish the levels of informal support available to individuals
- contact all supported living providers in the local authority area (even where there are no host authority placements or contracts) and facilitate plans for mutual aid across the area. It is vital that this includes providers of supported living to people who use direct payments or who fund their support themselves and is not confined solely to local authority-funded individuals. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) publishes information about all regulated care services on its online Directory.
- consider the need to draw on local community health services and primary care providers to support provision and draw up a plan for how and when this will be triggered
- consider how voluntary groups could enhance supported living care provision and link supported living providers and voluntary sector
- take stock of how to maintain viable supported living provision during the outbreak of COVID-19, including financial resilience
Shared guidance for local authority social care commissioners
The Association of Directors of Public Services, the Local Government Association and the Care Provider Alliance have published guidance for local authority commissioners of social care. The introduction to the guidance states that it is “designed to summarise pressures on social care providers arising from COVID-19, and to put forward ways in which commissioners can alleviate these pressures.”
The guidance covers areas including collaboration, business continuity plans, cashflow, sick-pay, workforce availability, and the rapid adjustment of support.
Library Briefing Papers
For social care more broadly, please see:
- Paying for social care: 20 years of inaction
- Adult social care: The Government’s ongoing policy paper review and anticipated Green Paper (England)
- Adult social care funding (England)
10 March 2020 | 27666
Asked by: Sarah Owen
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the ability of local authorities and care companies to provide food and meals to elderly and disabled people who receive care in their homes in the event of a covid-19 outbreak.
Answering Member: Helen Whatley | Department of Health and Social Care
Officials are working with the LGAs (local government associations), Public Health England and NHS England on continuity planning, to support social care providers.
We know social care will be at the frontline of our response to COVID-19, with social care providers looking after many of the most vulnerable in society.
Social care guidance is being worked on urgently and updated regularly. The latest advice which the government keeps under review is available at the following link:
10 March 2020 | 27663
Asked by: Mary Kelly Foy
To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what contingency plans are in place to support local authorities in the recording of deaths in the event that covid-19 causes workforce disruptions.
Answering Member: Christopher Pincher | Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government
The Government will continue to work with local partners, including local authorities and local resilience forums, to assist preparedness to manage the potential effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. This includes supporting them in their duties under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. All local partners have business continuity and local risk assessment processes in place for the purpose of ensuring that, if an emergency occurs, they are able to continue to perform their functions.
The Government will support councils to maintain their public services via the Covid-19 Response Fund, which has initially been set at £5 billion and provides funding so local public services are prepared and protected. Government is also considering emergency legislation which may ease some of the current requirements relating to registering a death.
An overview of the structures and functions of parish and town councils, plus discussion of policy issues in the 2010s and early 2020s.
This briefing provides information on the Government's proposals for adult social care reform, announced in September 2021.