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Questions and Answers: The Social Services and Well-being Act, 2014
We are in the 3rd month of a major new legislative enterprise in Wales and I've found myself having conversations with staff interested in the new Well-being Act, so I've pulled together this Q+A format capturing many of the most asked questions...
So what is it all about?
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, 2014, has set in place new arrangements for determining who receives social care and support packages across Wales and how that support is delivered. Health and social care is one of the areas of government which has been devolved to the jurisdiction of the Welsh Government. As a result, Wales now has social care legislation which is distinct from that which has just been enacted across the border in England.
Following the lengthy consultative and drafting stages, the Act was passed in 2014, but has only been enacted since April this year. There were a number of reasons why new legislation was required. Demand for services was simply outstripping the resources local authorities had to respond. Also, because of the way services have been delivered historically they were not responsive enough to individual's talents, interests and abilities and the new act is attempting to transform this picture. The new legislation seeks to optimize levels of independence as opposed to maintaining dependency.
The Act affects both children and adults, whilst all individuals with specific 'special' needs are included within the Act. Whereas previously deficits or problems arising from mental illness, learning disabilities, physical disability, old age or vulnerability in childhood were managed separately, this act provides a coherent framework for supporting an individual whilst taking into account their particular circumstances.
How does it do this?
The Act defines well-being through activities of life which it refers to as 'determinants'. These are areas in which care and support may be targeted. The core determinants are:
- Physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
- Protection from abuse and neglect;
- Education, training and recreation;
- Domestic, family and personal relationships;
- Contribution made to society;
- Securing rights and entitlements;
- Social and economic well-being;
- Suitability of living accommodation.
The act seeks to provide a greater focus on personalised support. According to The Care Council for Wales http://www.ccwales.org.uk/the-act/ the fundamental principles of the Act are:
- Voice and control – putting the individual and their needs, at the centre of their care, and giving them a voice in, and control over reaching the outcomes that help them achieve well-being.
- Prevention and early intervention – increasing preventative services within the community to minimise the escalation of critical need.
- Well-being – supporting people to achieve their own well-being and measuring the success of care and support.
- Co-production – encouraging individuals to become more involved in the design and delivery of services.
What does the act change?
The Act seeks to transform the way services engage with service users, so as to provide personalised care. Also, instead of thresholds for support being determined by services, there is a new single threshold for all individuals, based on the 'can and can only' principle. This principle states that individuals will receive support if they can only attain their well-being goals with a package of support delivered by the local authority or agencies collaborating with the local authority. There is also a new duty on local authorities to provide support to Carers and provide information to signpost individuals not meeting the threshold for a support package towards resources locally which may meet their needs.
What happens next?
We are waiting supplementary legislation which will determine how services will be inspected. This will be critical for services in knowing what quality indicators inspectors will be looking for. Many organisations will be providing training in respect of key functions relating to the act over the next 12 months.