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Regulation and Inspection in Wales: Too far or not far enough?

Although it’s a certain election on 7 May that’s getting the headlines, the business of government carries on in Wales with big changes to social care in Wales currently making their way through the National Assembly for Wales.

We know the value of social care to carers, the role it plays in providing carers with the breaks they need to keep well physically and emotionally. That’s why we watched with the usual mixture of optimism, anticipation and uncertainty when, in February, the Welsh Government introduced the ‘Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill’. The Bill is intended as a companion piece to Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, and to be the next step in making social services in Wales sustainable.

The Bill broadly aims to protect the well-being of people in Wales and improve the quality of social care. It is wide-ranging, consolidating older pieces of legislation and making changes to regulation, inspection, registration, and workforce development.

There will be changes to how social care providers will have to register and additional requirements for registration including producing an annual report and identifying ‘responsible individuals’ who are accountable for the care provided. The Welsh Government has also announced its intention to charge providers for regulation including a fee for registering as a service provider.

There will be new duties on local authorities to monitor the social care ‘market’ in their area and to produce market reports that identify whether the social care provision is meeting needs.

Big changes are also in store for inspections with the future inclusion of quality ratings, which will be publicly available to help inform choice.

What does it mean for carers?

These changes may very well improve the support available to carers in Wales. Carers need breaks from caring and the peace of mind that comes with knowing the breaks are of a good quality. The market reports could identify where the shortfalls are in carer-focused social care. The introduction of quality ratings could help carers choose the services that would best meet their needs, and would benefit those carer-focused services that have voluntarily participated in quality awards for many years.

But absent throughout the Bill is the involvement of carers. We’ve been clear in our evidence to the National Assembly for Wales that we need to see a greater recognition of how social care relates to carers. This includes recognising that social care may have been commissioned to support the carer to meet their own well-being outcomes, and enabling carers to be involved in inspections as an expert in the services that the person they care for receives.

So, too far or not far enough?

Although there are things to be concerned about on the face of the Bill – the current lack of carer involvement, the intention to charge fees – what’s more concerning is what is left out. Despite ‘integration’ being the buzzword of the moment, the Bill doesn’t make any significant steps in bringing together health and social care workforce, education or inspections.

Carers are often uniquely involved across health and social care, with the Welsh Government’s own figures show that four out of five carers’ first encounter with statutory services is through community based health services. We’re seeing services for carers across Wales become increasingly diverse, funded by both health and social services and delivering kinds of social care that push at the already blurred boundary between health and social care.

For regulation and inspection in Wales to be as effective as possible, it must reflect the reality of service delivery across the board, including the increasing role that local health boards are playing in funding social care in Wales. And the Bill must also reflect the crucial legislative changes which will come into force April 2016, placing carers on the same legal footing as those with care and support needs.


Kieron Rees is Policy & Public Affairs Manager at Carers Trust Wales


 

 

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May 20, 2015 - Posted by | Wales

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