Wales social services ‘team up’ call in action plan

Councils have been told to team-up so social services can be commissioned regionally. They have been given until the end of the year to come up with proposals by the Welsh Assembly Government.

It said that doing everything 22 times – once in every county – was no longer an option and social services directors could serve more than one council.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said services should be “built round people not organisations”.

The assembly government warned the changes were needed with the system facing “real and unsustainable increases in demand”.

Ministers want “citizen-centred services”, with users and carers given more control over what they receive.

So-called portable assessments will be introduced so if someone moves home their needs will not have to be reassessed.

A national adoption agency will replace the 23 that currently exist.

And a standard contract will be produced to help councils and local health boards negotiate with care homes.

Ministers will seek powers to make changes if councils do not come up with satisfactory proposals by the end of the year.

It follows an independent commission which said users should have more personalised services, with standard eligibility rules across the country for who should receive them.

Published in November, the From Vision to Action report warned of “striking variations” in what people could expect in different parts of the country.

Last year’s commission found the system of planning, commissioning, and delivering services across 22 local authorities was not sustainable.

Organisations and partnerships responsible for social services and care were told they should “collaborate more effectively”. It suggested organising alongside the seven local health boards so they could work closely with the NHS.
‘Fundamental changes’

The plans come as the assembly government grapples with rising demand on services at a time of public spending cuts.

Deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas said: “Social services must become sustainable, but sustainability means much more than funding.

“It will require more fundamental changes than simply becoming smarter at what we already do.

“We need to focus on what is really important and ensure that we are all working to the same ends by securing more efficient and effective ways to deliver services through greater collaboration and integration.”

Jonathan Morgan AM, chair of the assembly’s health, wellbeing and local government committee, said over the next 10 years the number of people over the age of 84 would increase by 31%, bringing with it associated health issues.

“The number of people in work will be outnumbered in the next 10 to 20 years by the number of people who are retired, he said.

“With that comes a significant public health challenge.”

Mr Morgan, Conservative AM for Cardiff North, said last November’s report recommended that health boards and local authorities work together, and that councils work with independent and voluntary sector groups that provide care.

“So a greater level of collaboration is important and one of the areas the report did tackle is how we get a well qualified, well motivated and supported social care workforce,” he said.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “High quality responsive citizen centred social services are essential to a successful Wales.

“I expect services to be built round people not organisations. This framework gives us that opportunity.”