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Will Wales’s Social Services Bill delight or disappoint?

| January 28th 2013

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The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill is due to be introduced to the Assembly today. And I hope it is with a fanfare rather than a murmur. This Bill is a big deal. So big in fact that important issues to do with registration, regulation and inspection are to be addressed in a further bill, such is the scale of reform introduced today.

150,000 people use social care in Wales and this Bill has the potential to transform the support they receive. Bringing together many pre-existing pieces of legislation, but with a huge emphasis on ‘voice and control’, it aims to place the individual at the heart of care provision in Wales.

Although we have had no draft bill to scrutinise, last summer’s consultation, the “Sustainable Social Services for Wales” and Statements from the Deputy Minister all give us a strong indication of where the Welsh Government’s priorities lie. We expect to see the Bill look at core principles for social care and issues including eligibility for care and what happens to your care package if you move.

It would be fair to say that Leonard Cheshire Disability is not the only organisation excited to see how national eligibility criteria and portability will work. This could mean an end to a postcode lottery of provision, with different local authorities setting different thresholds for the care they are willing to provide. But with this comes a big question – at what level will eligibility for social care be set?

All this of course may not be evident in the Bill. It is likely we will have to wait for regulations to find out the finer details which could mean the difference between ‘Mrs Jones’ accessing the support she needs in the way she wants, or falling foul of eligibility criteria and being left with no support at all. Let’s hope it’s the former rather than the latter.

There are other elements too with significant question marks over them, which I hope the Bill will clarify. What will the assessment process look like? Will there be a duty on local authorities to provide accurate, timely and accessible information? Will people be able to choose the type of services they use? Will there be measures to help drive up quality in the way services are commissioned? 

Leonard Cheshire Disability is responding to the Draft Care and Support Bill in England too. We really hope that both Governments are able to make sensible and meaningful legislation with regard to people moving across borders – care should be based on need, not which side of a border you live on. It’s outcomes that matter.

As I look forward to getting my teeth into the Bill later today, I hope that’s what I find – a Bill that puts people first.

Mary van den Heuvel is Policy and Assembly Officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

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