Guidance on coronavirus

March 22nd, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in General

There is now a great deal of Government guidance, much of it informal as yet but clearly intended to be followed, and other Government material related to the Coronavirus Bill.  It is growing by the hour.   Here’s a collection of material that I’ve come across, under different headings: general, social care, housing and day centres, education, business rates and procurement.

The MHCLG twitter account is a useful source of information  – https://twitter.com/mhclg.

General

Statement of support from the Minister https://www.gov.uk/government/news/robert-jenrick-reaffirms-support-for-councils-in-their-coronavirus-response

“Coronavirus Bill – Summary of Impacts” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-summary-of-impacts

“Guidance: what the Coronavirus Bill will do” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do

Explanatory notes to the Bill https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0122/en/20122en.pdf

Social care

Responding to COVID-19: the ethical framework for adult social care  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-ethical-framework-for-adult-social-care/responding-to-covid-19-the-ethical-framework-for-adult-social-care

COVID-19: guidance on residential care provision https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-on-residential-care-provision

COVID-19: guidance for supported living provision https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-for-supported-living-provision

COVID-19: guidance on home care provision https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance/covid-19-guidance-on-home-care-provision

Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Housing and day centres

COVID-19: guidance for hostel or day centre providers of services for people experiencing rough sleeping https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping/covid-19-guidance-for-hostel-or-day-centre-providers-of-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping

Press release – Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Education

Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

COVID-19: guidance for education settings https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

COVID-19: free school meals guidance for schoolshttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools

Business rates

Business Rates Expanded Retail Discount 2020/21: Coronavirus Response – Local Authority Guidance https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/873622/Expanded_Retail_Discount_Guidance.pdf

Procurement

Procurement Policy Note – Responding to COVID-19

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/873521/PPN_01-20_-_Responding_to_COVID19.v5__1_.pdf

Peter Oldham QC

 

Coronavirus and public attendance at LA meetings

March 22nd, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in General

The right of attendance LA meetings in s 100A of the LGA 1972 is (subsection (8)) “without prejudice to any power of exclusion to suppress or prevent disorderly conduct or other misbehaviour at a meeting.”

Can LAs exclude the public because of the threat of passing on the coronavirus?  The right of attendance is an important part of local democracy, but I think the answer is probably yes.

The caselaw largely involves scuffles, protests (actual or threatened), and overcrowding.  But note the following in Lucas v Mason (1875) LR 10 Ex 251 (obiter, emphasis added):-

“It is no doubt the duty of the chairman of a meeting, where a large body of people are gathered together, to do his best to preserve order, and it is equally the duty of those who are acting as stewards or managers to assist him in so doing, but the nature and extent of this duty on both sides cannot be very closely defined a priori, and must necessarily arise out of, and in character and extent depend upon, the events and emergencies which may from time to time arise.”

In Doyle v Falconer (1866) LR 1 PC 328, the Privy Council referred obiter to the “right to remove for self-security”.

These are old cases but they have been referred to in modern authority:  R v Brent HA, ex parte Francis [1985] QB 869 and Laporte v Metropolitan Commissioner [2014] EWHC 3574 (QB).

My own view is that, given the Government’s policy of suppression of the disease through self-isolation and social distancing, a Court would probably decide that, as things stand, the threat of passing on the disease by attendance fell within the scope of s 100A(8), at least if the LA had made it clear that attendance was not allowed because of the pandemic.

That said, it would be good to get some guidance from MHCLG.  There is a deluge of guidance from the Government on COVID-19, growing by the hour, but I don’t think there is any guidance on this issue yet.

LAs excluding on this basis should ideally show that they have taken countervailing factors (e.g. Art 10) into account, and put in place measures to allow publicity through other means.

Peter Oldham QC

 

Coronavirus Bill, LAs and the right to emergency volunteering leave

March 21st, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in General, Local Authority Powers

Cl 7 of the Coronavirus Bill gives effect to Schedule 6 –  provisions about a new right to emergency volunteering leave (“EVL”).

Under Schedule 6, a worker is entitled to be absent from work for the period specified in an emergency volunteering certificate (“EVC”) if, no later than 3 days before the first day of the period specified in the EVC, the worker gives notice to their employer of their intention to be absent for the period stated in the EVC.   The EVC may specify two, three or four consecutive weeks within a single volunteering period.  A volunteering period is the period of 16 weeks after the right under the Bill comes into force and each period of 16 weeks thereafter, unless shortened by the Secretary of State in regulations.  A worker may take EVL only once in the same volunteering period.  If a worker takes EVL, they have the right to return to their job, and not to suffer detriment as a result.  Dismissal by reason of EVL is automatically unfair.  Under cl 8 SoS must establish a scheme to compensate volunteers for lost income and expenses incurred.

LAs are given an important role.  The EVC is a document issued by “an appropriate authority”, a category which includes the Secretary of State, the NHS Commissioning Board, and local authorities – county councils, district councils where there is no county council, London boroughs and the City.

The EVC certifies that the worker has been approved by the appropriate authority as an emergency volunteer in health or social care.

The Government’s document “Coronavirus Bill – Summary of Impacts” tells us what the Government’s expectation of LAs is likely to be. It says:-

“Impact on Local Authorities – the policy requires LAs across the UK to identify volunteer social care opportunities and to match these opportunities to volunteers coming forward. This may add additional burdens to the work that LAs are doing in response to the outbreak. HM Government will provide detailed guidance for LAs to follow and will design a simple system in collaboration with them that is easy to administer. Additional funding may also be required.”

Peter Oldham QC