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Agenda Item No.

 

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 15TH DECEMBER, 2014

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 3RD NOVEMBER, 2014

 

 

"559    IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES AND WELL-BEING (WALES) ACT 2014 (DSS) –

 

The Director of Social Services presented the report the purpose of which was to update Members in respect of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the approach being taken to its implementation. 

 

As a background summary, the Committee noted that in February 2011, the Deputy Minister for Social Services announced a new strategic plan for putting social services on a sound footing.  The strategy entitled "Sustainable Social Services for wales – A Framework for Action" set out Welsh Government plans to renew social services and social care for the next decade.  The Deputy Minister made it clear that there would be significant changes in the social and financial context within which services were delivered and it was imperative that changes to social services needed to be made. 

 

The strategic plan concluded that wholesale structural change was not necessary and that local government would continue to be accountable for service delivery, identifying need and determining service priorities.  Highlighted at Section 3 of the strategy were eight priorities for action, in summary these were:

 

·                A strong national purpose and expectation; and clear accountability for delivery;

·                A national outcomes framework;

·                Citizen centred services;

·                Integrated services;

·                Reduced complexity;

·                A confident and competent workforce;

·                Safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of citizens; and

·                A new improvement framework.

 

The strategy acknowledged that social services and social care were facing a real and unsustainable increase in demand across all categories of service users.  It had been concluded that due to the pressure on public sector finances, the choice was either retrenchment or renewal.  Retrenchment would see fewer people receiving services, with greater expectations for people to find their own solutions, increased burdens on informal carers and a growing number of disputes between services such as the NHS and social care about responsibility for services.  Renewal meant focusing more clearly on delivery, including preventative services, and continuing to innovate and create sustainable services. 

 

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act received Royal Assent and became law on 1st May 2014.  The Act was intended to transform the way social services were delivered through an approach that was focused on achieving the outcomes necessary to promote a person’s wellbeing.  To achieve the aim the Act intended to ensure that people had access to clear information, advice and assistance.  The Act also recognised the key role played by carers and also to the importance of prevention and early intervention.  The Act would also provide greater consistency and clarity around people who use social services and their carers. 

 

The Act would come into force in April 2016 and was made up of 11 main areas. 

 

1 –       Introduction (Sections 1-4 overview and definition of key terms)

2 –       General Functions (sections 5-18, including well-being duty and outcomes, local arrangements for preventative services and the provision of information, advice and assistance)

3 –       Assessing the Needs of Individuals (Sections 19-31 - adults, children and carers)

4 –       Meeting Needs (Sections 32-58, including eligibility, direct payments, and care and support plans)

5 –       Charging and Financial Assessment (Sections 59-71, including financial assessments and deferred payments)

6 –       Looked After and Accommodated Children (Sections 74-125, including leaving care)

7 –       Safeguarding (Sections 126-142, including a duty to report children and adults at risk and the role of Safeguarding Boards)

8 –       Social Services Functions (Sections 143-161 including the role of Directors of Social Services, codes and intervention by central government)

9 –       Co-operation and Partnership (Sections 162-170, including the role of LHBs and NHS Trusts and joint arrangements for the provision of adoption services)

10 –    Complaints and Representations (Sections 171-183, including the provision of advocacy services)

11 –    Supplementary and General (Sections 184-200, including provider failure and issues of residence).

 

A copy of the Act was attached at Appendix 2 to the report, while at Appendix 1 was a briefing note which provided an overview of the key provisions of the Act. 

 

The Chairman asked if the Director of Social Services could comment on some of the challenges facing the service.  In response, Members were advised of the scale of changes being implemented and the relative lack of narrative from the Welsh Government in respect of outcomes and expectations.  There had been a lack of detail contained within the Act and he alluded to the publication of regulatory guidance which would be made available subsequently.  He went on to advise that one of the major challenges related to increased demand for services during a period of austerity.  In order to achieve the change, the service needed to consider different ways of working.  He had some reservations whether the renewal of services would be effective without real retrenchment while there was also a need to look at how social care was financed within Wales. 

 

In highlighting some concerns, the Director of Social Services advised that there was a need for clarity about the nature of the new Wellbeing Assessments and he commented upon the potential impact in relation to adult protection being placed on the same footing as child protection arrangements.  He also doubted whether the Act was realistically cost neutral.  The service would also need to assess the implications in respect of carers being considered on the same basis as social care service users. 

 

A Committee Member queried whether there were any planned changes to the eligibility criteria for accessing services.  In reply the Director of Social Services advised that there would be national criteria implemented that would be in line with those currently outlined by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. 

 

In answer to a question regarding self-funders, Members were advised that implications from the Act would be considerable.  The £55 cap had cost the Authority approximately £4.1m since its inception and this had brought a lot of self-funders into the care system.  The Act also placed clear emphasis on early intervention programmes in order to deflect individuals into voluntary arrangements for their care provision. 

 

Further to this a Committee Member queried whether any evaluation of the costs and impact of the Act had been undertaken.  In reply the Director of Social Services commented that the WLGA were looking at the detail contained within the Act but he stated that Members should be mindful that even if this WLGA review highlighted significant cost implications, this was not likely to change the view of the Welsh Government.  He offered reassurance to Members that the Vale was one of only a few Local Authorities within Wales to closely monitor arrangements in respect of the impact of the £55 cap and similar measures would be employed in respect of the Act.  He also alluded to the necessity for a debate as to how balanced budgets within Wales could be achieved.  There was a need for improved dialogue between health, social services and the Welsh Government. 

 

In referring to preventative strategies, a Committee Member queried as to how wide ranging would the proposals be and whether they would include organisations such as Youth Clubs.  The Director of Social Services stated that the timing of the Act was difficult for Social Services.  This had been put together at the beginning of austerity and at a time when no one properly envisaged the scale of financial challenges to be faced.  Many Local Authority activities and services impact directly upon wellbeing and many of these would be affected by reduced budgets.  He alluded to the support work carried out with disadvantaged families and that, in the future the third and voluntary sectors may be a way of offering possible solutions. 

 

Following a query in relation to the framework regarding the assessment process, the Director of Social Services advised that the intent was for greater emphasis on national standards and documentation that would lead to reduced scope for local interpretation.  Implementation of the new standards would be monitored through changes in inspection and regulation. 

 

The Director of Social Services went on to advise that an integrated assessment form had already been implemented on an all Wales basis and the service was always willing to work on national and regional levels.  The directives from the Welsh Government seemed to offer proposals to improve aspects that the Council was already implementing.  He stated there was a lot of evidence to show that the Council was providing services to a good standard.  There was also the risk that the directives could stifle innovation and overlook the need for diversity. 

 

A Committee Member asked if the Director of Social Services could elaborate upon the interface between health and social services and the effect this would have within the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Committee was advised that the programme of integration was well developed within the Vale.  The emerging consensus was that there would be a need for greater health investment within some areas of social care.  He cited the examples of integrated community services and reablement, where health had successfully invested in joint service arrangements.  Going forward there would be a need for more pooled budgets under the control of a single manager, similar to the joint working arrangements between social services and education in which costs were covered by the two directorates.  The Act could assist in taking this approach further and could encourage health to invest in community based services and not just in acute health services.  As a final note, he advised that the Vale of Glamorgan was well equipped to meet the future challenges and he alluded to the Reshaping Services Change Programme that was currently underway. 

 

In considering the Act, the Committee

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T regular updates about implementing the Act be received.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure that Elected Members were kept informed about fundamental changes in the policy and legislative framework which underpins the work of Social Services."

 

 

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 3rd November, 2014

 

 

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