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Blog 19th March 2020

Mar 19th, 16:26

Blog 19th March 2020

In this blog, I refer to: the Coronavirus pandemic; how AWICS will continue to support clients; the Coronavirus Bill (its provisions, its potential effect on health, social care, mental health, local councils, children’s services, bereavement services, education, human rights and the rule of law); Leo Varadkar; Robert Peston, the National Health Service; the UK Parliament and Big Brother Watch.

I am sure that all the readers of this blog will already be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

coronavirus

Coronavirus

Scientists have warned for some time that a new virus could emerge for which there would be no cure and that would quickly spread around the world causing illness, deaths and widespread disruption. Now it is happening. And, as Leo Varadkar said:

“This is the calm before the storm, before the surge. And when it comes, and it will come, never will so many ask so much of so few.”

Our thoughts should be first and foremost with those who have lost loved ones, those who are ill, those who are vulnerable and those whose livelihoods are threatened. Our thoughts should also be with health workers and others who are at the front line in managing this crisis.

However, at the same time, we at AWICS will do our best to continue to support our clients despite the difficult situation we find ourselves in.

We have postponed all our seminars that were planned to be held between March and June 2020. Others may be postponed if the restrictions required by the pandemic continue after June. We hope to re-arrange the postponed seminars later in the year and will publicise revised dates when this happens as well as contacting people who have booked on the postponed seminars individually.

For the duration of the crisis, we will not be offering in-house training courses.

However, we will continue to provide management consultancy services, independent tenants’ advice and interim management; but only where this can be provided from our own premises. We are available through e-mail, telephone and skype but we are not offering one-to-one meetings.

Our publications are still available for purchase.

We will soon be re-launching our webinars so that clients can access our training online. Further information about this will be posted on our website, in this blog and through our information service. Information about our information service can be found by clicking here.

Anyone who would like to subscribe to our information service should contact me at Adrian.waite@awics.co.uk

I will certainly continue to keep readers of this blog and users of my website up to date with what is happening in the world of public services, starting with a brief look at the Coronavirus Bill.

The Houses of Parliament where the Coronavirus Bill was introduced today

On Tuesday the government published its Coronavirus Bill and today they presented it in Parliament. The bill enables action in five key areas:

  • Increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired National Health Service staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers).
  • Easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations.
  • Containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers.
  • Managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services.
  • Supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies.

The government considers that the proposals set out in the bill will significantly enhance the ability of public bodies across the United Kingdom to provide an effective response to tackle this pandemic.

Robert Peston, the Political Editor at ITV describes the Bill as follows:

“There has never in my lifetime been a law that so encroached on our civil liberties and basic rights as the Coronavirus Bill, scheduled to become law by end of month. It is all aimed at keeping us safe. But the transfer of unchallengeable power to the state for two years is… huge. It covers everything from burials, to holding those who threaten national security for longer, to closing borders, to detaining those with mental health issues, to empowering the police to quarantine those with the virus, and much more. This is… wartime stuff.”

It appears that the Bill will not only provide the government with the powers that it requires to manage the coronavirus pandemic but will also make changes to public services that are controversial and could prove permanent. For example, in health and social care the Bill provides that:

  • The National Health Service will no longer have to provide care and treatment plans for people leaving hospital. This would enable them to discharge patients back into society with no after-care.
  • The rules and standards for social care for older, learning disabled, and other people will be relaxed. This means councils could reduce the service and support they provide to vulnerable people. It could leave countless people, reliant on support, without it.
  • Councils will not have to do new care plans for older, learning disabled, and other people who need new care. This includes ‘looked after’ and vulnerable children. It means countless vulnerable people could get no support at all.

The Bill would also change mental health care and support as follows:

  • It would only take one doctor’s approval to have a person sectioned (detained) under the Mental Health Act. Previously two doctors had to agree to this course of action. This protected people from biased, incorrect, negligent, or unfair decisions.
  • Time limits on detaining people in a mental health setting will be removed. Currently, medical professionals can detain people for up to six months at first, depending on circumstance. This will now be open-ended, meaning if a person is in psychological distress, they could be locked up indefinitely.

Concerns have also been expressed about the implications of the Bill for bereavement services, education, human rights and the rule of law. For example, ‘Big Brother Watch’, a civil liberties group, has said that:

“It’s right that Government takes rapid & robust action, but good laws are rarely made in haste & rights are too often the casualty of crisis. The law will last two years. Government must justify this length given the severity of the measures, which will interfere with the everyday lives of people in the United Kingdom. A shorter duration with a sunset clause would ensure the powers are strictly temporary & promptly reviewed.”

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