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We are really worried about a new law and guidance that the Government has published about social care during the coronavirus crisis.

The new law allows councils to reduce their duties to provide care and support under the Care Act 2014, if they’re not able to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance is meant to say when councils can stop supporting people or reducing people’s care. But it is really unclear.

This is really worrying because thousands of autistic people rely on care from councils to live safely – to eat meals, get dressed, exercise or keep in good mental health.

The Government had also previously promised to give councils guidance on how to prioritise people’s care, but we don’t think that this is detailed enough in the guidance. We’re deeply concerned that this could leave many autistic people without the care they need during this difficult time.

The Government must do all it can to stop this from happening, by giving councils the money they need to continue providing vital care to autistic people and their families. We are really pleased that Government gave an extra £1.6bn to councils for this kind of care. But, it must provide more funding if councils start becoming stretched. This is the best way to prevent councils from having to reduce essential care for people.

Caroline Stevens, our chief executive, said: “This new guidance could create a situation which no one wants for our country. It could mean thousands of people, including autistic adults, not getting the support they need to live safely.

“The Government had promised councils would only be able to reduce or even stop supporting people in critical circumstances. But this guidance doesn’t make this threshold clear enough, and we’re worried that many more people could lose out as a result. When these powers are “turned on” the guidance fails to explain how councils should prioritise care to the most vulnerable, including many autistic people. This could leave decisions about thousands of people’s support down to a postcode lottery.

“This couldn’t be more important to get right. These are vital decisions that affect how people are able to live safely. The Government must clarify this guidance to ensure thousands of autistic adults and other disabled people don’t go without basic support during this crisis. It must also do all it can to prevent councils from needing to make these decisions, by continuing to guarantee they have enough money to keep the social care system afloat. Now, more than ever, autistic people and their families need the Government’s support.

What we’re doing

We are committed to showing the Government the impact this has on autistic people and their families. We will keep speaking up so that people have their rights protected during this time. Please share your experiences, and any worries or concerns you have, with us by emailing policy@nas.org.uk.

Further information

We have information, guidance and tips about Coronavirus to help you during this difficult time.