More power and control to thousands receiving care in Social Services Bill

More power and control will be given to thousands of people receiving care, the Welsh Government said today as it unveiled its Social Services Bill.

The new law is aimed at cutting bureaucracy, giving users a set of rights and allowing them to be in control of their own care budgets.
gwenda thomas

Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas, who announced details of the Bill in the Senedd, said it would “support people in living their life in the way that they choose”.

It was met with broad support by representatives of those working in the profession, with Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, describing it as “potentially the most important change to social care in two generations”.

The Bill, known as Sustainable Social Services for Wales: a Framework for Action, includes provision for early intervention, and calls on councils to co-operate, including the possibility of sharing social services directors.

It will now go to public consultation with the possibility of becoming introduced in the Assembly in October.

Among other proposals, it will create a single adoption agency for Wales, as was first discussed last year.

Ms Thomas said: “There is no doubt that social services face real pressures from changes in what we all expect of public services, from demographic changes and from increased demand.

“There are some who are prepared to accept that it is inevitable that fewer and fewer people should get services. I am not one of those.

“I believe that if we work more closely with people who need services, if we work with them to understand how we can support them in overcoming the difficulties they face and if we can work with local government to deliver that little bit of help early on, then together we can support people in living their life in they way that they choose.”

The substance of the Bill was included in the Welsh Government’s Programme, published last year.

“I am sure that the public will want to see and debate the details of the Bill and there will be an opportunity to do so when we launch a full public consultation shortly, with a view to introducing the Bill into the National Assembly in October 2012.

“This Bill provides us with the legislative basis that meets the changing needs of the people of Wales.

“I look forward to engaging widely on our proposals so that we can ensure we have all the tools we need to seize the opportunities ahead.”

Mr Kreft said: “This is potentially the most important change to social care in two generations which is going to hopefully cut bureaucracy and focus resources and services to where people need them.

“It enshrines in law the importance of the contribution of the independent sector in providing social care.

“At a time of austerity, this is about doing things better and more cost-effectively. It’s a victory for common sense.”

Care Forum Wales has been lobbying for some time that the current system, which sees different ways of commissioning services with different eligibility criteria across Wales’ 22 local authorities was unsustainable.

“In the case of social care, we also have seen local health boards to deal with so you can be a provider in Wales with 29 contracts. It flies in the face of the current financial reality,” said Mr Kreft.

“We believe that this legislation has the potential to take millions of pounds worth of cost each year out of the bureaucracy. By streamlining the way we do things it should be possible to target our resources so that we can better provide early intervention and reablement services.”

Parry Davies, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru, said: “We very much welcome today’s announcement by the deputy minister.

“We are committed to playing a full part in delivering the 10-year strategy set out in Sustainable Social Services for Wales – A Framework for Action and we look forward to the opportunity of contributing constructively to the proposed legislation.

“The new Bill must offer all the people who depend upon social care services realistic hope that their needs will be met, both now and in the years ahead.”

The new Bill will make it clear that local authorities have a duty to provide, or make arrangements to provide, social care services, and will bring in a definition of these services that will draw on the existing definitions and proposals by the Law Commission.

The complaints procedure will be strengthened and the Public Services Ombudsman’s powers to consider complaints extended.