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Mason Institute Investigates Season 2 Episode 4: Under Pressure: Impact of COVID-19 ‘easements’ on adult social care provision

Welcome back for another episode of the Mason Institute Investigates podcast. In this episode, I am joined by Professor Jean McHale (Twitter: @JeanMcHale2) from Birmingham Law School and Director of the Centre of Health Law, Science and Policy at the University of Birmingham; and Dr Laura Noszlopy from the University of Birmingham’s School of Social Policy and Network Facilitator for the Criminal Law Reform Now Network. Professor McHale and Dr Noszlopy discuss their Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project called, “The impact of Covid-19 social care ‘easements’: Removing rights from the vulnerable?”

Professor McHale and Dr Noszlopy share their analyses of the West Midlands’ local authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the declaration and implementation of COVID-19 easements on adult social care provision.

“From the perspective of our research, the uniqueness of the West Midlands was this anomalous cluster of neighbouring local authorities who had each declared the use of Care Act easements. And we were curious to explore why this cluster had happened and whether it was some kind of joint action and decision, whether it was a proportionate response to particular local conditions or whether it was just somehow coincidental that five of the eight councils nationwide that had formally activated Care Act easements happened to be neighbouring councils in the West Midlands…”

Dr Laura Noszlopy

They emphasise the lack of adequate guidance and support local authorities received during the pandemic which further exacerbated pre-existing pressures. Moreover, they note a perturbing implication of ‘easements’ on adult social care provision: if service users can endure cuts to social care provision during a pandemic, then they can also potentially endure permanent cuts to social care provision at all other times.

“… Looking back over what happened…, there is that need to reflect on what the legacy is of the pandemic, and we saw that from some of our interviewees. One of the principal social workers in one of the authorities where they didn’t implement easements had indicated that, “My worry is because people managed without support, there’s a view that people can just survive without it.” … There were concerns about the level of communication, concerns about … why things were cancelled, and what was the justification for it and what were the public health concerns … that I think does remain a concern for service users and also for health professionals and carers and others too going forward.”

Professor Jean McHale

Professor McHale and Dr Noszlopy’s project highlights broader questions on the challenges of providing social care during a pandemic.

Listen to the podcast episode on Media Hopper.

View the accompanying episode transcript (PDF)

Check out the channel of Mason Institute Investigates for other episodes.

For more information, please see the below links to further resources. Happy listening!

Written by Leyla Noury (Twitter: @dheggacad)

Links and further resources:

Professor Jean McHale & Dr Laura Noszlopy, ‘The impact of Covid-19 social care ‘easements’: Removing rights from the vulnerable?’ University of Birmingham

Professor Jean V. McHale and Dr Laura Noszlopy Nov 2021, ‘Adult Social Care under Pressure: Lessons from the Pandemic’, an initial report. University of Birmingham

Professor Jean V. McHale and Dr Laura Noszlopy, 3 November 2021, ‘Adult Social Care under Pressure: Lessons from the Pandemic blogpost’ University of Birmingham

Professor Jean V. McHale and Dr Laura Noszlopy, 26 March 2021, ‘Did Covid-19 social care ‘easements’ make anything easier? blogpost’ University of Birmingham


‘Mason Institute Investigates’ is produced and edited by the Mason Institute and made with funding from the Edinburgh Law School.

The intro song is ‘Secret to Success’ by Scott Holmes Music

The outro song is ‘Inspirational Outlook’ by Scott Holmes Music

Both are available under Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons Licence from Free Music Archive

Image by Annie Spratt from Unsplash

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