Raising standards for care can go long way to preventing tragedies

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, explains how inspectors are helping to drive up standards across Wales

MOST of us are likely to need the help of a council social services department at some point in our lives.

Constantly operating in the background, few people give much thought to the work of social services departments or care workers until we need to call on them or until some case with which they are involved goes wrong and finds its way into the media.

Then there is a period of intense attention, usually highly emotionally-charged, as explanations are sought and demands are made that lessons should be learned.

It would be much better if we sought to prevent such failures to deliver the best services possible rather than simply react to them after the event. That’s why I’m exceptionally proud of the relationship the Welsh Government has with the inspectorates that regulate social services departments and other providers of public services.

While they are employed by us, there are a number of measures in place that ensure they are independent, thus allowing them to do their jobs.

For social care, we have the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), an inspectorate and regulator for social care services in Wales.

Its teams have a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience to carry out their statutory duties in respect of all registered social care services, including local authority social services departments.

They regulate and inspect services for everyone from the very young to older people.

This means they can undertake spot checks on everything from residential care homes, to the nurseries into which you entrust your children’s daily welfare, to see how they are performing.

The reviews and inspections carried out by CSSIW are absolutely necessary, and can either highlight examples of good practice, which can be shared with other authorities, or they can highlight areas where standards need to be raised.

The recommendations can be as simple as improving communications between management and their staff. But in cases of extreme concern, the Welsh Government, CSSIW and other partner agencies will work together to decide on the best course of action, which can be as wide-reaching as installing commissioners to help run the council in question.

These reviews are our way of making sure the correct procedures are in place and, if they are in place, they are being delivered as they should be, to ensure the optimum level of care to those people who need it. Working in partnership with other regulators, inspectorates and auditors, the CSSIW team can propose ways of delivering better services to help safeguard the interests of people who use services and their carers. Ultimately, CSSIW’s role is to raise standards and promote best practice.

There have been a number of critical reports on certain social services departments in Wales recently.

This proves the Welsh Government and all of its partners, together with the inspectorates, are determined to ensure that the services provided are of the highest standards.

They are not a sign that standards are falling. They are a sign that we are all determined to achieve the highest standards possible.

I am ambitious for social care in Wales. It needs to be the best we can make it. Sometimes, that requires an honest and critical review of current practice. It’s far better to do so before something goes wrong.

This only goes to further prove our commitment to social services outlined in our Sustainable Social Services in Wales: A Framework for Action, and our determination to provide world-class care throughout our small but proud country.