The Scrutiny Committee received an update on the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 on 3rd November 2014.  The purpose of this latest report was to detail work undertaken since that time to prepare for implementation of the Act in April 2016.  

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act received Royal Assent and became law on 1st May 2014.  Its purpose was to repeal or consolidate existing legislation and to specify the core legislative framework for social services and social care in wales, giving effect to the policy stated in the White Paper “Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Action”.  The Act was intended to transform the delivery of social services through an approach that was focused on achieving the outcomes necessary to promote a person’s wellbeing – as an individual, as part of a family and as part of their community.

The report detailed that there were eight priorities for action to be introduced in support of a new way of working.  In summary these were:

  • A strong national purpose and expectation, and clear accountability for delivery;
  • A national outcomes framework;
  • Citizen centred services;
  • Integrated services;
  • Reducing complexity;
  • A confident and competent workforce;
  • Safeguarding and promoting the wellbeing of citizens and
  • A new improvement framework.

The Director of Social Services in the Vale of Glamorgan was the Regional Lead Director for co-ordinating the work to support implementation of the Act across the Vale and Cardiff.  Currently, this programme was being overseen primarily by the arrangements in place for integrating Health and Social Care services across the region, including the Governance Board chaired by the Leader of this Council.  The Board had membership from the three statutory bodies as well as the umbrella third sector organisations.

The Welsh Government timetable for implementation was set out as follows:

  • Formal consultation on two tranches of draft regulations and codes of practice – from November 2014 and Summer 2015
  • Regulations and codes to be made in the National Assembly – from Summer 2015
  • Staff training – 2015 and 2016
  • Act “switch on” – April 2016.

The first tranche of draft regulations and guidance on parts 2, 3, 4, 7 and 11 of the Act were issued during November 2014.  The Director of Social Services submitted a response to this consultation in February.  This response was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  

Included in the response were some additional general overview comments.  These covered the potential financial investment required to allow for new services to be developed and set out other points including implementation of the Act, preventative services, roles and responsibilities of partners, training, performance measures and Safeguarding Boards.

A self-assessment of the Council’s readiness to implement the Act was prepared in conjunction with partners.  The Local Authorities, the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff Third Sector Council and the Vale Council for Voluntary Services took part in the self-assessment which was shown at Appendix 2 to the report.  This assessment was submitted to Welsh Government on 30th January 2015 in line with the requirements of the Delivering Transformation Grant.  

Work was currently ongoing to develop by the end of March a first iteration of the Regional Implementation Plan which would focus on 11 strategic themes:

  • Access to information, advice and assistance;
  • Proportionate assessment to maximise independence and wellbeing;
  • Meaningful engagement with the local population;
  • Providing care and support for the most vulnerable people;
  • Integration to achieve better outcomes for people;
  • Primacy of wellbeing and its connection with prevention, assessment, eligibility and information;
  • Early intervention to maintain people’s independence;
  • New models of delivering care and support;
  • Giving people more control over their lives;
  • Governance arrangements and
  • Training and development of the workforce and partners.

The Implementation Plan would be presented at the Committee’s next meeting.

Training requirements for implementation had been considered by Welsh Government.  A first level training programme was being designed for all core staff and partner agencies involved in delivering the Act, including the NHS.  This would be produced as a ready to use “pack”, with a framework for delivery.  It was expected that Local Authorities would take a lead role in planning and delivering the training with their partners, in line with the expectations of their role under the Social Care Workforce Development Programme (SCWDP).  

Welsh Government had recently announced that it would continue investment in social care workforce development through the well-established grant funding made available to Local Authorities by means of SCWDP.  15% of the money available would be used to design a national training programme for implementation of the Act.  The priorities of this part of the SCWDP grant in 2015/16 and 2016/17 would be:

  • To ensure staff engaged in duties delivered under the Act had the knowledge, skills and competencies to operate under the new legal framework; and
  • To ensure all core training and development, including induction and qualification training, is reframed to reflect the new legal framework.

In terms of resource implications, the Welsh Government had confirmed that the Delivering Transformation Grant would be available again in 2015/16 and it was to be used to support the regional implementation of the Act.  This grant would be paid on a regional basis with the Vale Council being the lead Authority.  The funding available for the region in 2015/16 had doubled and would be £414,648.  Proposals had to be submitted to Welsh Government by the end of April detailing how this funding would be used.

The Director of Social Services went on to comment that the Act was an enabling Act and the most comprehensive one that the service had seen; it would be accompanied by a considerable volume of regulations and guidance, to be made available over the next year.  The Directorate had responded to the consultation exercise covering Tranche 1 of the Act’s Regulations and Guidance and the service was now waiting for Welsh Government ratification of the responses and subsequent notification of any changes.  Draft regulation and guidance regarding the second Tranche of the Act would be made available in late 2015 or during the early part of 2016.  He also stated that as a consequence the service was still speculating in regard to some of the detailed requirements of the Act and that at present there were only partial answers.  Implementation of the Act was likely to be fast moving.  The service was confident that necessary governance arrangements were in place on a regional basis but that these may need strengthening as proposals came to light.  

The Chairman raised a query regarding the impact upon resources available and whether any cost analysis had been undertaken.  In response the Director of Social Services explained that the service was not entirely sure of the financial consequences of the Act.  The service may be able to make some better estimates of potential costs from the final guidance but this was some way off.  The Council and other organisations had responded to the legislation during its passage through the Assembly and there was no real body of evidence to support the view that the Act would be cost neutral.  Both the Institute of Public Care and the Association of Directors of Social Services had been asked to look into the cost of the Act, but both bodies were unsure of the true consequences as there were many areas still to be clarified.  The Chairman went on to query whether it would be possible for any part or the entire Act to be delayed or changed.  In response the Committee noted that there was very little chance for the detail within the Act to be changed and all parts would need to be implemented at the same time.

A Committee Member then raised three questions.  The Member’s first query was as to whether the Act represented a central dictat from Welsh Government or whether there was scope to implement some aspects of it in a more flexible manner.  The Director of Social Services advised that the whole tenure of the Act was about doing away with the post code lottery and creating a consistency of services across Wales.  He highlighted the potential conflict regarding the prescription of services outlined within the Act and he commented that Local Authorities should retain some discretion about how to provide services that respond best to local need.  

The Member’s second query related to Appendix 2 and the self-assessment which showed readiness to implement the Act.  The Member questioned whether the scoring assessment method used represented a true appraisal of the current position.  In response, the Director of Social Services stated that the service had tried to be honest about the scale of work required to implement the Act.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Health Board were, on the whole, a little more sceptical compared to Cardiff Council which was more optimistic, particularly in regard to the impact upon Children’s Services.  Following some robust conversations and dialogue, a consensus had been agreed, so it was true to say that the figures were realistic.  

The Member’s final query was in respect of some rather vague responses detailed within the self-assessment and the Member queried whether this was as a result of lack of understanding.  The Committee noted that the Act was in some areas aspirational, such as the emphasis on preventative services and the use of social enterprises.  This would require a fundamental change in the direction of the service and an even greater degree of integration between partners that would result in a significant culture change for staff and the way they worked.  The ICF and the RCF grants were examples of the start of this change but the Act required a more considerable organisational change and a real breakdown of the barriers that currently exist between care providers.  

A Member of the Committee voiced the opinion that the Act deviated from its initial intentions and that it lacked clarity.  The Member queried whether the timetable in respect of training would be met.  In response to this, the Head of Business Management and Innovation advised that money for training would be provided by Welsh Government but there would be no increase in what was normally received for training.  Services would need to be careful as to how money for training was earmarked, as some areas would require more intensive training.  This would be a challenge for the future but the service was aware of this and would plan accordingly.  

A Committee Member also queried whether there was enough information regarding eligibility criteria within the Act.  In response, the Committee noted that the Eligibility Framework for Wales remained an area of confusion.  Members were also advised that the “Can” and “Can Only” aspects of the Act determined that Local Authorities or Health should provide a service when they were the only option available to individuals and there would be a greater expectation on individuals to fund and support themselves when it came to their care needs.  Practitioners and service users needed clarity around their ability to make judgements that were based on clear guidance.  Further to this, the Committee was asked to note that the “Can” and “Can Only” aspects of the Act were open to interpretation. Revoking the old legislation that dated back to 1948 meant putting aside over 70 years of case law.  To some extent this new Act would now be defined over the next few years by new case law and the Committee was reminded of the impact made following the changes to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.  

In regard to  Children’s Services the Committee was made aware that, for Looked After Children and Child Protection cases, there would be clarity as these service users could be defined as ‘passported groups’ within the Act, and on that basis would be eligible for services.  However, the challenge would be for those service users currently defined as Children in Need as this status would be changed by the Act.  

In answer to a Committee Member’s query regarding the potential cost of the Act, particularly in relation to preventative services, the Director of Social Services advised Members that an interesting parallel could be made with the Families First Service.  This highlighted that, in many cases, support was intended to be very time limited but very often this would extend beyond the time limits because of the scale of need that required greater, longer term intensive support.  He was not sure preventative services offered true solutions in regard to reducing resources as in reality preventative services often only deferred demand to a later point.  He also questioned the ability of community based services to carry out the same level of support and functions as those services within Local Authorities.  

A Committee Member asked for clarification in respect of the population assessments and how they could be used and their link to the register of Disability Index.  The Head of Adult Services stated that the population assessments, supported by Public Health Wales, were a useful tool that allowed the Authority and its partners to compare and contrast data with other areas.  Following implementation of the Act, there would be a need to revisit how Public Health Wales and others acquired information and to ensure the service used the information in a more thorough and effective way.  In respect of the Disability Index, he questioned whether, in its current form, it provided a great deal of value for individuals.  Further to this point the Director of Social Services stated that if the Index was used in the same way as the Children’s Services Register, it could be more meaningful in helping to manage demand and targeting support.  

In referring to the Welsh Government’s statement that Local Authorities should remain cautious about whether sufficient resources would be available to meet any increased commitments, a Committee Member questioned as to how this could be the case when the increased demand was as a result of the new legislation.  In response to this, the Director of Social Services stated that caution meant having an understanding of the impact upon duties contained within the Act.  In some respects the Vale of Glamorgan was better placed than other Local Authorities, at least in understanding and knowing the implications of the Act.  Effective oversight of the Social Services budgets and individual evidence of changes in support packages for service users and cost implications would mean that the service would be able to identify very quickly if factors were changing.  This would allow the Directorate to respond and take appropriate action.  He alluded to the budget management in regard to increasing demand and reducing resources and stated that at some point the UK and Welsh Governments were going to have to properly respond to the implications.

In relation to the self-assessment, the Chairman stated that this had been returned to Welsh Government and he asked whether the Association of Directors of Social Services and the WLGA were in dialogue with civil servants in the Welsh Government and whether they had been listening to the concerns raised. In response, the Director of Social Services explained that joint dialogue with officials within the Welsh Government had demonstrated that they themselves had struggled for answers and so they too would have to be somewhat pragmatic.

As a final point, the Director of Social Services stated that the self-assessment tool would be kept up to date and presented to Committee when available, as would the accompanying Implementation Plan.


(1)    T H A T the report be noted.

(2)    T H A T the Scrutiny Committee continues to receive monthly updates.

(3)    T H A T the concerns and views of the Scrutiny Committee as outlined in the minutes be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration, in summary these covered the following points:

  • The lack of clarity and absence of necessary detail within the Act.
  • Concerns regarding the potential impact upon limited resources  and whether this  had been appropriately costed
  • The potential impact on the role of social workers
  • The need for greater training and awareness raising for social workers
  • The lack of clarity over eligibility criteria and the impact on the work of social workers
  • The impact on the Children in Need service and those on the edge of care and the support required by those families.
  • Concern as to whether community based services could carry out the same level of support as Local Authorities.

Reason for recommendations

(1-3)    To ensure that elected members are kept informed about fundamental changes in the policy and legislative framework which underpins the work of Social Services.”

Attached as Appendix –