Carers’ needs part of bill to ‘transform’ social care

The Welsh government is publishing legislation which will see carers getting the same legal rights to support as the people they look after.

The Social Services Bill will widen the range of people and organisations delivering social services.

It aims to give those in need of support greater choice and more control over the help they receive.

Ministers say it will also give people a say over the care they receive, and control over care budgets.

Under the bill, social workers will have new powers to enter homes and speak to vulnerable adults.

Around 150,000 people a year receive social care in Wales.

The legislation will increase the number of services where people can claim a direct payment from their local council. Spending on social services in 2010-11 was £1.4bn.

The Welsh government said the bill would “transform” the way people are looked after.

It will also:

  •     introduce national eligibility criteria, so people are assessed according to their needs, regardless of where they live;
  •     create “portable assessments”, meaning people will not have to be re-assessed if they move to a new authority;
  •     establish a national adoption service;
  •     and allow council officers to apply to the courts so they can enter homes and speak to adults suspected of being at risk.

The requirement on assessing carers’ needs replaces an existing law which says carers must give “a substantial amount of care on a regular basis” before they are assessed.

The change will “simplify the law” and mean carers are treated in the same way as the people they look after, the Welsh government says.

‘Real control’

In documents released with the bill, the Welsh government says that “radical changes” are needed to meet pressure on services.

Demographic changes, including an ageing population, are putting more demand on the system.

The charity Carers Wales has estimated that the contribution made by unpaid carers who look after friends and relatives is worth more than £7bn.

Rules on who will be eligible for care services will be spelled out in regulations by ministers.

The charity Scope said regulations should be written to benefit as many people as possible.

Its Welsh director Ian Thomas said: “Times are tough for everyone but being able to eat, wash and leave your home is not a luxury.”

‘Take control’

Deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas said: “This bill is an excellent example of how we are using the new powers of the National Assembly to make a real difference to the lives of the people of Wales.

“This bill is about giving people a stronger voice and real control over the social care services they use, and to help meet their changing needs.

“Assessments for service users and their carers must be about the outcomes that are important to them, not just about eligibility for a particular service.”

Mario Kreft, chief executive of Care Forum Wales, said the current system of social services care had simply evolved.

“We need to really take control now in a way and, of course, what we should recognise is the bill – the Social Services and Wellbeing Wales Bill. Wellbeing is in that title for a specific reason.

“We’re looking, just as we are as a nation to different pension arrangements in the future, we’re looking to the long term and how we can actually improve people’s wellbeing and how those services fit together.

Mr Kreft added they must recognise how much public money is going into the service which is already under pressure.

But David Niven, former chairman of the British Association of Social Workers, warned there could be pitfalls in the new system.

“You’ve got to appreciate that within the system and within the fact that money and resources is going to be given to each individual in order to control the spend more there is going to be situations of abuse,” he said.

“And if you deregulate and take away overlooking of this system, in many ways you’re also going to open the door for the small minority of people that will abuse the vulnerable.”

Steven Griffiths from Llanelli cares for both his parents

Most of my responsibilities tend to be shopping, cleaning, gardening – doing everyday things that fit healthy people take for granted. that infirm, elderly people with mobility problems just find so difficult.

The assistance is there but its like everything else now. The social services are under a great deal of pressure.

Some respects are brilliant. I mean they’ve come in and supplied a wheelchair for my mother, they’ve fitted rails. When it comes to supplying physical things they seem to be quite good, not so good when it comes to providing ongoing support of a more personal nature.

There’s a lot of buck-passing that goes on. If my parents are ill then questions arise as to whether that’s a health authority issue or a local authority issues or something that we should just ignore and try and carry on on our own because quite honestly dealing with these people can be a bit of a nightmare.

The government does recognise that carers make a huge contribution to the economy by saving vast sums of money that would otherwise have to be spent looking after people.

There’s not been an awful lot of recognition for that. And also when you’re a carer whenever you deal with an official body your status is questioned – especially if it’s a health situation you find that your views, your opinions, your experience, your knowledge are just dismissed by the so-called professionals.