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Coronavirus Act – 6 Month Renewal

Updated briefing

This briefing is an update to the 1st April 2020 ‘The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Social Work Practice’ briefing 

Introduction

The Coronavirus Bill was introduced to Parliament on Thursday 19th March and became law on Wednesday 25th March 2020. It was renewed on Wednesday 30th September for a further six months, with some minor changes.

The Act continues to have profound implications for social work practice, and service users, across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Act also continues to have a significant impact on everyday life (for example, a power for police to break up gatherings of more than two people and fine those who fail to comply), however, this briefing focuses solely on those aspects of the legislation that will have an impact on social work practice.

Key issues of importance to social workers currently include availability of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), priority testing and guidance on home visits. BASW is advocating on all these fronts. However, since the Act does not cover these specific issues this briefing will not address these issues here.

Renewal of the Act – Wednesday 30th September 2020

As part of the conditions of the Act, Parliament must approve its renewal every six months. The Government put a motion to the House of Commons at the end of the six-month period to renew the provisions with some minor amendments, and this was agreed by a majority vote.

The key parts that have been removed from the Act are:

  • Allowing people to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act based on the opinion of just one doctor.
  • Extension of legal time limits on the detention of mental health patients

These provisions will be ended with secondary legislation being brought to the House of Commons shortly.

Ongoing concerns

However, it is the continuing suspension of hard-won rights in the field of adult care that is the major concern. The provision for ‘Easements’ under the (England) Care Act 2014 continue.

What happens next?

Social workers will need to keep abreast of the full legislation that is relevant to their area of work, government guidance and information that is specific to their country and area of service as it becomes available. BASW continues to issue practice guidance and resources in a variety of forms for specific areas of legislation that relate to the specific circumstances of each country.