THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 11TH JANUARY, 2016
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 30TH NOVEMBER, 2015
"615 IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES AND WELL-BEING (WALES) ACT 2014 (DSS) -
The Scrutiny Committee had requested monthly updates in respect of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (the Act) and the approach being taken around implementation.
The Act would come into force in April 2016 and the report updated information considered by the Committee in September 2015, which included:
- A draft legislative timetable setting out the proposed timescales for laying the remaining regulations and Codes of Practice before the National Assembly, for approval;
- An update on the workforce development proposals being managed through the Care Council for Wales;
- The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Social Care Workforce Development Partnership Mid-Year Monitoring Report and updated Plan, submitted to Welsh Government on 25th September, 2015;
- An update on the statutory Code of Practice in relation to measuring social services performance.
An updated Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Implementation Plan was attached at Appendix 1. This was submitted to Welsh Government on 16th October 2015. The plan reflected the nine work streams being delivered through the Implementation Programme and it included a risk assessment. The governance structure for this programme was appended to the plan and regional task and finish groups for each work stream had been established. These were led by Heads of Service and Directors from both local authorities, with the remit to develop local action plans.
The report advised that on 3rd November, 2015 the Minister for Health and Social Services issued a detailed written statement updating on legislative, national and regional implementation of the Act.
This advised that the revised tranche 2 regulations and final Codes of Practice for Parts 2 (General Functions), 3 (Assessing the Needs of Individuals), 4 (Meeting Needs), 5 (Charging and Financial Assessment), 6 (Looked After and Accommodated Children), 10 (Complaints, Representations and Advocacy) and 11 (Miscellaneous and General) of the Act had now been laid before the Assembly for scrutiny. It was also noted that the Minister would also publish statutory guidance on Parts 7 (Safeguarding) and 9 (Co-operation and Partnership) during November 2015. These, together with the Code of Practice in relation to measuring social services performance would substantially complete the legislative framework under the Act and provide much of the detail required for implementation. The final Code of Practice, in relation to Part 8 of the Act (the Role of Directors of Social Services) was currently out to consultation which would close on 4th December and would be laid before the Assembly in February 2016.
The report highlighted that the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Welsh Local Government Association had agreed to co-ordinate the work of the six regional implementation collaboratives. Three of the four national work groups established to share best practice and produce consistent material on an all-Wales basis had met. Cardiff and the Vale region had appointed officers to each of these groups so that the Service could contribute to the development of national toolkits and, where possible, avoid duplication.
There was growing concern about urgent progress needed in making available as soon as possible a set of detailed technical briefings from WG summarising the duties placed on Local Authorities and their statutory partners by the Act. Two major information events for stakeholders were held during November, one in North and one in South Wales. The Service was looking especially for urgent development of the national assessment and eligibility toolkit but this was proving difficult to get consensus.
One of the key tasks was to communicate to the general public the changes the Act would make. To this end, a WG-led national awareness raising campaign would commence in January 2016, preceded by an easily accessible summary publication developed for a wide range of audiences. The Service's Regional Lead Officer had attended the Act Implementation Communications Steering Group. This Group was focused on ensuring that a consistent message on the main implications of the Act was delivered to citizens across Wales.
On 11th November, 2015, the Minister issued a written statement - 'Update on Reform of the Arrangements for Paying for Social Care and Support'. The Minister advised that due to the continued uncertainty about relevant UK reforms this had meant that he was not in a position to make informed decisions about the position in Wales. However, WG would still move ahead with implementing an updated financial assessment and charging framework under the Act. The regulations and Code of Practice relating to Parts 4 and 4 of the Act to introduce the updated framework were laid before the National Assembly on 3rd November, 2015.
The key elements of the framework included:
- one set of financial assessment and charging arrangements for non-residential and residential care and support rather than one for each at present;
- maintaining the present weekly maximum charge and "buffer" for non-residential care and support, as well as the current capital limit used to determine who pays the full cost of their residential care themselves;
- maintaining the current individuals, and forms of care and support, for which a charge could not be made and introducing a new provision of up to six weeks free reablement to enable a person to maintain or regain their ability to live independently so as to promote the prevention ethos of the Act;
- introducing more transparency by extending the requirement for all those who receive a charge to receive a statement detailing this and its calculation;
- introducing a consistent, universal review process to enable a person to query charges made and correct errors;
- maintaining deferred payments in residential care to enable those whose property may need to be sold to pay for this to delay its sale until a time more appropriate for them; and by introducing the ability of a Local Authority to charge a low set rate of interest on the amount deferred. This would help make such arrangements cost neutral to Authorities; and
- allowing Authorities to recover charges and to create a charge over land where a debt occurs.
The Director of Social Services further advised Members, that the Act had come out following an independent Commission which reported a position of strength within Social Services and that the Act was meant to improve the experience of service users. The Act was being devised as a way to deal with the issues around changes to demographics and increasing demand and was based on the premise that investment in preventative and early intervention services would lead to individuals relying less on the 'state'. He commented that this view was not fully supported by evidence available to date and that the Act may, in the first instance, increase demand. He mentioned that demand for acute health services was increasing, while also alluding to the pressure on resources available. He stated that much of the responsibility around implementing the Act had been passed to Local Authorities and that the Service would implement as much of the Act as it could.
The Chairman referred Members attention to paragraph 13 of the report, which related to the urgent development of the national assessment and eligibility tool kit and he queried how this would be implemented in such a short time frame. In answer to this, the Interim Head of Business Management and Innovation stated that initially the toolkit would be in the form of a checklist and so this would not require such a radical change to current systems as was previously envisioned. This would allow the Service to implement the toolkit more quickly.
To follow up these points, the Director of Social Services explained that this was an example where the lead for implementation had been passed on to the Local Authorities. In his view, this was rather belated, but that it was better for Local Authorities and local government as a whole to find national, regional and local solutions. He also referred to how social care staff had become increasingly worried about how they would carry out their roles and that the Service needed to be able to reassure them that they would have the necessary tools to properly carry out their jobs.
In answer to a query regarding the number of red and amber actions within the Implementation Plan, the Director of Social Services stated that a major step forward was around the forging of links with Cardiff Council. Implementation of the Act was on a regional basis and this had given the Service more capacity to tackle issues more quickly. He explained that some of the major challenges were outside the control of the Council, but on the whole good progress was being made. The Director also stated that he now felt that this was a more managed programme, which was down to the greater degree of autonomy that had been given to Local Authorities. He further advised that it was likely that not all parts of the Act would be in place, but that this Authority was in a relatively good position.
Following consideration of the report the Committee
(1) T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
(2) T H A T the Committee continue to receive regular updates about implementation of the Act.
(3) T HA T Cabinet be advised of the latest progress around the approach being taken to implement the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
Reason for recommendations
(1-3) To ensure that elected Members are kept informed about fundamental changes in policy and the legislative framework which underpins the work of Social Services.
Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 30th November, 2015