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Adult social care: coronavirus (COVID-19) winter plan 2020 to 2021

BASW England response to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Winter Plan

BASW England is listening to, supporting, and advising social workers throughout the pandemic. Social workers have an essential role in social care, providing support to families and communities, and ensuring their human rights are protected.

The Adult social care: our COVID-19 winter plan 2020 to 2021 recognises the importance of social workers and highlights many of the areas that we have been advocating for.

The Winter Plan outlines models of good practice, national and regional support and proactive system leadership that often exists at a strategic and operational level in Local Authorities, NHS Providers and in partnership with providers, families, carers and with people with lived experience.

Local authorities and partners have extensive experience of planning for inter pressures and this document is useful within the context of Covid-19, Flu and these unprecedented times.  

BASW England welcomes specific recognition of the pivotal role of social workers and other professionals in the plan and the importance of the promotion of legislation including the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019, Care Act 2014 and the importance of upholding an individual’s human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

We also welcome the focus on person centered planning, strengths-based models of practice, no blanket advance care planning, the extension of the Infection Control Fund and the importance of maintaining visits in care homes and the community when it is safe to do so, based on appropriate risk assessments.

Social workers play an integral role in undertaking and contributing to risk assessments and decision making including where people lack capacity and we expect the pivotal role of social workers and other professionals to be embedded in all local Winter Plans, in addition to reinforcing the leadership responsibilities of Principal Social Workers.

BASW England is developing ethical guidance for social workers, recognising that that the decision-making process to determine how care, safeguarding and support needs will be met can be a point of tension.

The NHS is identified as the lead for resuming Continuing Health Care assessments  ‘at speed’, it is important to recognise the role of social workers in these assessments and the importance of investment in workforce resourcing across health and social care in order to deliver this ‘ask’ in a timely and effective manner.

In March 2020 BASW asked for feedback and views on the impact of Covid-19 from social workers and have had 2,300 responses so far.  BASW England will continue to request feedback from members about their experiences of the application of the Care Act and the easements throughout the winter months and acknowledge the demands and pressures that Local Authorities are experiencing in these unprecedented times.

The Winter Plan highlights that the Care Act easements should be enacted as a last resort and there should be rationale and accountability to individuals and communities if a decision is to taken to enact the easements, in addition to notifying  DHSC and for CQC to display this information on their website.   

We strongly support that prior to anyone being discharged from hospital to a care home they should be tested for Covid-19 and are concerned that this may not always by applied at the point of discharge. We are concerned to note that there is reference to discharge of individuals who may be ‘awaiting a test result’ - we seek clarification on this point.

There are a lot of expectations outlined in the Winter Plan of Local Authorities, including a broad range of system leadership responsibilities, IT and digital infrastructure support, accountability, partnership and effective communication with people accessing social care and social work services including families and carers.  

Support for people in receipt of Direct Payments is outlined, which includes approaching Local Authority Local Resilience forums for provision of PPE. If Local Resilience Forums no longer wish to distribute PPE this will fall to the responsibility of Local Authorities.  This could place significant capacity demand on Local Authorities. 

The importance of equality of access to health and social care is imperative, we must learn from past failures. People with lived experience from Black and minority ethnic communities, autistic adults, adults with a learning disability, young and adult carers,  and older adults must be directly engaged by Local Authorities and other partners in sharing their experiences and their voices must be heard and acted upon in addressing inequalities.

Identifying  people’s experiences and capturing this information to feed into learning reviews by local authorities, NHS and partner organisations should continue to address inequalities locally, involving people with lived experience wherever possible, and consider these issues throughout the implementation of this Winter Plan.

We expect the government to be accountable and evidence impact against the 3 overarching priorities it has outlined in the Winter Plan for adult social care: -

  • ensuring everyone who needs care or support can get high-quality, timely and safe care throughout the Autumn and Winter period
  • protecting people who need care, support or safeguards, the social care workforce, and carers from infections including COVID-19
  • making sure that people who need care, support or safeguards remain connected to essential services and their loved ones whilst protecting individuals from infections including COVID-19.

It is imperative that the social work workforce has the right capabilities and support to carry out its diverse roles safely and the wellbeing of the workforce must remain a high priority.   

Any specific guidance for families, unpaid and paid carers in terms of their support to loved ones including people with learning disabilities and autistic adults needs to be made available in accessible formats for people

There needs to be a joined-up approach between DfE and DHSC about recognition and support for young carers and BASW England recommends that every local Winter Plan must integrated, both child and adult focused.

We will continue to support members and colleagues across the sector and would like to take this opportunity to thank all our members, social workers, social care staff, families and carers for your incredible had work (paid and unpaid) and selfless acts in these extremely challenging times. Your kindness, empathy, support and care has truly made a difference to the lives of many.

For further information about BASW and BASW England including our support services, guidance, statement and membership please see:-

Download the BASW England response here.