Bruce McLernon outlines ADSS Cymru’s priorities for social services

ADSS Cymru last month announced its priorities for the next two years at last month’s national social services conference.

Now three years old, we feel ADSS Cymru has developed an approach to ensure it is well placed to provide the assertive professional and strategic leadership required as we develop the future landscape for social care in Wales.

The conference also provided a platform for Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, to announce the publication next year of a White Paper on the future of social services in Wales. This will inform the new Assembly Government, to be elected in May 2011.

In making her announcement Mrs Thomas helpfully reinforced the importance of social services belonging within the democratically-accountable system of local government under the leadership of the statutory director of social services and being an integral part of the local government family.

The publication of the White Paper will draw on the evidence from the Independent Commission on Social Services and a number of other reviews. Other significant pieces of work taking place on a UK-wide basis, such as the Law Commission Review of Adult Social Care Law; the Review of the Family Justice System and the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, will also provide critical evidence to inform the White Paper.

To ensure ADSS Cymru has a voice at the table to contribute to the debate and to inform decisions about the future of social services in Wales, the association has developed its policy priorities around four key themes – models of social care; safeguarding and prevention; resources and commissioning and workforce and leadership development.

These priorities will ensure ADSS Cymru has maximum flexibility to respond to the critical challenges facing social services and they will be driven forward by a strong integrated membership of directors, heads of service and associate members.

Underpinning our priorities are a number of key messages.

Social services is an integral part of the local government family alongside education, housing and social and community regeneration. But it must also be aligned with health through a partnership between health and local government.

The focus of social services must be on the family by ensuring there is seamless integration between adult and children’s services.

We accept not all 22 social services departments should be doing everything themselves and we should be looking at how services are best delivered at national, regional and local level.

Where it is appropriate social services departments do and will collaborate – there are many examples of local authorities delivering services jointly, be they adult placements, adoption services, out- of-hours emergency social work service, commissioning, or care line emergency response services.

The financial challenges for the public sector and social care in particular will be significant as we try to do more with less against a background of increasing public expectations.

We are potentially looking at social services in Wales having to deliver efficiencies in the region of £200m to £300m over the next three years.

Hence the reason for doing things more smartly through collaborative commissioning and procurement, developing the mixed economy of social care and working with providers in delivering services which respond to the individual needs of service users.

ADSS Cymru has much to contribute to the White Paper through the learning we have done to date, the leadership we have provided in responding to the emerging challenges facing social services and local government and working with people as citizens with real choice and control.

We are fully committed to engage in shaping the detailed thinking that will inform the White Paper and its proposals.

Bruce McLernon is president of ADSS Cymru.