Wales online article by Mark Smith, 6 April 2016: New law to ‘radically transform’ social services in Wales comes into force
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 aims to strengthen the voice of vulnerable people and their carers
A new law which aims to “radically transform” the way social services are delivered in Wales comes into force today.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 aims to give people a stronger voice and greater control over the support they need, as well as ensure services are sustainable for the future.
It also promises to strengthen powers to safeguard vulnerable people and give carers greater rights.
The legislation focuses on earlier intervention and increasing preventative services in the community so people can maintain their independence and get the help they need before their situation becomes critical.
In turn, the Welsh Government hopes the law will help to reduce pressure on the NHS and residential care services.
In addition, the Act:
- Ensures easy access to information and advice is available to all
- Introduces new eligibility criteria focused on individual need, replacing the current threshold system
- Introduces portable assessments, so people who move from one part of Wales to another will receive the services they need in their new area without immediately having to undergo a new assessment
- Introduces new arrangements so that, if they want to, young people will be supported to stay with their foster carers until they reach 21 (or 25 if they are in education or training)
- Requires local authorities and health boards to come together in new statutory partnerships to drive integration, innovation and service change
‘Helping people live their lives in the way they want to’
Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said: “A new made-in-Wales system for the care and support of our most vulnerable citizens, which is fairer and more sustainable, has come into force.
“It will ensure the right services are available in the right place, at the right time – helping people live their lives in the way they want to.
“I’m confident the new system will improve the care and support we provide to people in Wales for the better.”
The new Act gives carers an equal right to assessment for support to those in their care.
Local authorities will have a duty under the Act to undertake a carer’s assessment where carers need additional support.
It also aims to “streamline” and simplify financial assessments and charging by introducing one overall framework.
Each person required to pay a charge will now receive a written statement detailing the charge and how it has been calculated.
There will be a legal duty on health boards, local authorities and NHS Trust to work closely to ensure better integration of health and social care.
Eight children suffer in secret for every one child that is known to social services
‘A welcome step forward’
Head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Des Mannion, said: “The NSPCC participated in the process that led to these changes and we welcome the Act.
“Its strong focus on early intervention is much-needed and I am extremely pleased to see more support for families facing adversity. We believe problems should be addressed early – before they escalate – and these changes are a welcome step forward in achieving that.
“Provisions to strengthen safeguarding are also extremely welcome, particularly the new duty to report children at risk.
“There is still more work to do in all of these areas – but the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act makes clear progress.”
Jane Green, engagement manager at the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “This new law is an important step towards enabling health and care in Wales to revolve around the needs of individuals, their families and communities.
“To provide patient-centred care, collaborative working across health and social care is vital.
“Our relatively small size as a country, and the close links between our public services, means that Wales has a golden opportunity to make the aims of this new legislation a reality.
“It is now down to all of us to work together with the shared responsibility of providing better care and support to people, with the ultimate aim of improving their lives.”
But charities such as Age Cymru say they still have reservations over certain aspects of the Act.
A spokesman said: “The charity sector worked hard to ensure the Welsh Government included access to advocacy services for people who need them in the new Act.
“We welcomed the passing of the legislation and the Welsh Government’s commitment to embed advocacy as a golden thread running through the act.
“But we have concerns about how effective they will actually be in improving older people’s lives.
“Among the concerns we have is that the onus is on officials to decide whether an advocate is needed; we think it should be down to the older person.
“We also think that funding for advocacy services must be a government priority in future so that older people have better access to them.”
Prof Drakeford thanked former Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM, for turning her vision of sustainable social services into reality.