Corona Virus Bill: Suspension of Social Services and Well-being Wales Act (2014)
National Disability Umbrella Organisations in Wales have serious concerns about the implications of the Coronavirus Bill on human rights, especially the rights of specific groups, including disabled people.
The second reading of the Bill was on Monday 23 March in the UK Parliament. A Legislative Competence Motion on the Coronavirus Bill will be debated in the National Assembly for Wales today on Tuesday 24th March.
We welcome the UK Government’s amendment to ensure the Corona Virus Bill to ensure that it is to be renewed every six months, given the sweeping nature of the powers. Nevertheless, we remain concerned that the Bill suspends the key provisions in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 unless services are needed to protect an adult from abuse or neglect or a risk of abuse or neglect. Unlike the suspension of the Care Act (2014) duties in England, there is no express requirement to avoid breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights included.
We call on the Assembly to take action to protect the lives of many thousands of disabled people by ensuring that no services are withdrawn without undertaking an assessment to verify whether there would be a breach of human rights.
We believe that the Corona Virus Bill presents a real and present danger to the lives of disabled people. It will effectively roll back 30 years of progress for disabled people. It also comes after years of chronic under funding of social care which has resulted in a social care system already at breaking point. The bill will:
– Remove disabled people’s rights to social care
– Change the duties to educate to meet children’s educational requirements to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty
– Severely undermine the civil liberties of disabled people and erode their rights to support.
We understand this is an unprecedented and extremely challenging situation, however given the already broken social care system, this Bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support. Rolling back our rights is not good for anyone and in the current circumstances will put many lives at risk.
Rather than removing disabled people’s right to social care support the government must treat our essential social care service as key infrastructure, alongside the NHS, and as such it must immediately provide the necessary funding to keep this vital service running.
Our understanding of the negative social implications of the #CoronaVirusBill on the lives of disabled people and their families detailed below. This information was prepared by barristers who specialise in public law and disability rights.
Implications of the Bill for Disabled people
What does it mean for disabled adults?
Schedule 11 of the Bill [pages 111 – 122] effectively suspends / downgrades almost all adult social care duties (including charging duties). As the Explanatory Notes (at para 175) explain, the various duties to assess and meet eligible needs of adults and carers in the Care Act 2014 and adults, young people and carers in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (SSWWA) are downgraded to powers.
A duty to meet needs will only arise in England if a failure to provide care and / or support would be a ‘breach of an individual’s human rights’. In Wales a duty only arises where a failure to do so would mean that the individual may be experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect
Schedule 16 of the Bill [page 158 – 181] provides the Secretary of State / the Welsh Ministers with powers to issue directions suspending school provision and attendance duties and downgrades local authority education law duties (including those relating to the provision of Additional Learning Needs) to obligations ‘to use reasonable endeavours to discharge’ the duty.
Mental Health Detention
Schedule 7 Part 2 para 3 of the Bill [page 90] provides that an application by an approved mental health professional under the Mental Health Act 1983 sections 2 or 3 need only be founded on the recommendation by a single registered medical practitioner.