Don’t waste this historic chance

Independent care providers in Wales have warned a historic opportunity to reform social care could be squandered unless councils are prepared to work in partnership with them.

Care Forum Wales, which represents more than 500 members, believes the new legislation has the potential to end the post code lottery that has plagued social care services.

According to Chair Mario Kreft MBE, it is significant the Welsh Government chose the Social Services (Wales) Bill as their first piece of legislation under the Assembly’s new powers.

The Bill includes the introduction of national eligibility criteria so that people receive the care they need regardless of where they live.

Other key elements are the creation of portable assessments so that people’s needs don’t need to be re-assessed if they move to live in different area and a new national framework contract.

Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services and Children, launched a three-month public consultation on the legislation.

Mrs Thomas says the legislation is designed to give people greater freedom to decide which services they need while offering consistent, high quality services across Wales.

The proposed Bill has been warmly welcomed by Mr Kreft who said: “We would like to commend the Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas AM, for the leadership she has shown and her commitment to transforming social care.

“We have been campaigning for many of these initiatives since Care Forum Wales was established 19 years ago.

“We certainly welcome this radical Bill and if we together seize the opportunity to focus our efforts this could be a historic achievement.

“Radical reform of the planning and delivery of services is long overdue and we need to create a culture where the independent sector works in true partnership with public sector bodies.

“If we have that shift, we can achieve a great deal but if we don’t I’m afraid we’re going to fall short and this would be deeply disappointing for those requiring services.

“This Bill is the first piece of legislation brought forward by the Welsh Government under the new powers so clearly they have accepted this is a priority because sadly the service is currently failing on too many fronts.

“Social care for vulnerable people is simply too important to be allowed to fail.

“The national eligibility criteria and portable assessments should help end the current postcode lottery in social care.

“We have always campaigned to have the right services  in the right place at the right time. It should not matter where you live.

“It is going to be important to develop a transformation agenda to new services while we hold on cross Wales to those important services that we are still going to need.

“That is going to require a change of mindset and one of the important aspects is the Memorandum of Understanding to develop a partnership approach between the independent and the public sectors in relation to the commissioning of social care.

“We understand that the Deputy Minister is passionate about the MoU because she has recognised that without this change of culture, a new approach to partnership working, a lot of what’s contained in the Bill will not be delivered.

“The national eligibility criteria and the portable assessments are vital elements of providing a consistent and fair service to the people of Wales. It is also important to empower people and the national framework contract will assist in this.

“The current postcode lottery is simply not acceptable. With a population of just three million, Wales does not need 22 variations on a theme with different councils doing things differently. There are also seven local health boards andwe must have a more joined up approach.

“Like the Deputy Minister, we are not prepared to sit by as fewer and fewer people receive the support they need.

“In reality, we have seen far too much growth in bureaucracy, the growth of the back office at the expense of front line services.

“Anybody who’s going to look seriously at this consultation has got to recognise that the whole social care system in Wales is predicated on tens of thousands of decent hard working people working people are at the bottom end of the pay scale.

“Independent sector wages are effectively set in county hall and we must value the contribution of social care workers in Wales.

“The tender arrangements that local authorities are adopting in relation to domiciliary care across Wales are designed to drive down price at all cost, regardless of quality.

“Everyone knows the cheapest price is often not the best value and the same is true in social care.

“We’re never going to have the high quality services that we need  unless we recognise the workforce agenda has to be transformed and these people are supported and remunerated in the way they deserve.”

At the launch of the consultation period, 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.

“The Bill will drive the development of new models of service that maintain and improve the wellbeing of people in need.

“There will be a stronger focus through the Bill on preventative and early intervention services, based on greater partnership working and integration of services between local authorities and partners.

“Service users and their carers must be involved. This means assessments must be about the outcomes that are important to them, not just about eligibility for a particular service.

“This Bill will help us all tackle the many challenges facing social services in Wales but will also allow us all to seize the opportunities before us”.

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