AMs need to sort out the postcode lottery of social care

WE OFTEN talk about the standard of health care in Wales and how it appears to vary alarmingly from one place to another. Less headline-grabbing but no less important is the postcode lottery in social care which also appears to exist throughout Wales.

As we report today, there is no clearly defined system in Wales for the provision of social care. Different local authorities operate to different criteria, have different priorities, and pay differing amounts to a varied range of providers.

Some residents end up paying vastly more in one place than those somewhere else. Worse still, depending on where you live, you might miss out on some services altogether. In practice it means, for instance, that someone can be made to fork out £5,000 more per year for a residential care bed in one county than in another.

And we all know the terrible toll paying for private residential care can exact on families, the way some ailing people have had to sell the roof over their heads to pay for a carer, bled dry despite having paid taxes all their lives.

What makes such tales all the more galling, is to think that across an invisible county border, some other person in a similar situation might be enjoying such care for free.

It is quite clear that the way social care is being provided in devolved Wales lacks is muddled, unfair and grossly inefficient.

The health service has learned a few lessons over the years how to operate, not least because newspapers like the Daily Post have been willing to shine a very bright light on the activities of bodies such as Health Commission Wales.

Clearly, the same level of scrutiny needs to be applied to social care. Care Forum Wales calls for a “joined-up, value-for-money approach” to replace the current bureaucratic system which varies so markedly from county to county.

The forum points out how differently things are done in Scotland, where the Parliament has established a single national approach for determining fees, contracts and eligibility.

The Welsh Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, has set up a commission to look at reform here. Let’s hope its findings are acted upon speedily.

Before too long, the Assembly will ask Welsh people for greater law-making powers. AMs need to show they are deserving of them and sorting this mess out would be a good place to start.