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Coronavirus Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Opposition Whip (Commons) 7:43 pm, 23rd March 2020

I recognise the need for emergency legislation at this time to minimise and reduce the harm and devastation that covid-19 threatens for communities across the country.

I rise today to speak on behalf of the millions of people who are currently receiving social care, those who are in need of social care but whose needs are not currently being met, those who will need social care for the first time because of the impact of covid-19, and children with special educational needs and their families. These are already some of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Many are also in the vulnerable category for covid-19 due to age or comorbidities. They are also exceptionally vulnerable to the social and mental health impacts of the pandemic.

In suspending all of the rights of older and disabled people under the Care Act 2014, there is a significant risk that some vulnerable people will have care withdrawn as resources are prioritised and that some will be left in truly desperate circumstances. I am concerned that in his opening speech, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care appeared to say that the purpose of the measure was to ensure that people’s life-and-death social care needs would be met over those who currently have a statutory entitlement, but for whom it was not a life or death issue. In my experience, it is simply not the case that, for anyone who is able to access social care in one way or another, it is not a matter of life or death. What assurance can the Minister give that the needs of those already eligible for care under the Care Act 2014 will continue to be met? We need greater clarity from the Government on what criteria will be used to allocate social care resources at this time and how individuals can trigger a review of decisions made about their care under this Bill.

I am also concerned that the Bill could result in what little progress has been made on the “Transforming Care” agenda for people with autism or learning disabilities being undone, that the withdrawal of support for autistic people and people with learning disabilities could result in a higher incidence of crises, and that, because of the provisions in the Bill, more people could end up being detained and back in institutions that have been traumatising and where abuse has taken place.