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Social Care Policy – England v Wales
So in the draw for the European Football Championships for 2016 Wales and England have been drawn to play each other. Coming so quickly after the epic battle at the Rugby World Cup it makes for an enthralling encounter.
In the world of UK legislation and policy, it has always been the Westminster government that has called the shots. Whilst Wales has often needed to fine-tune policy to take into account the particular circumstances of our population, the result has been ‘variations on the English theme’ rather than anything more radical.
There are signs that with the current devolved arrangements things are beginning to change…Here’s how our respective legislation for social care measures up.
Demand for social care services is outstripping the ability to meet the demand in both England and Wales. And with funding for local government being squeezed, something has had to give. Either local authorities explicitly rationed care and support within the existing (pre 2014 postcode lottery) framework, or they designed a new system to prioritise. That’s what both England and Wales have gone for.
With Social Care being a devolved area, the Welsh Government has more power than previously to vary the legislative direction. The overall framework for taxation is the major constraint here, i.e. the Welsh Govt has to work within the overall spending settlement from Whitehall and cannot raise taxes itself.
- Bring together and consolidate disparate legislation which has grown up over the past 20 years;
- Set out clearly what service users can expect and who is responsible for what;
- Cover the same types of services to assist people with daily living tasks;
- Make reference to promoting well-being, preventing problems and stopping them from becoming worse;
- Introduce a legal entitlement for carers needs to be assessed;
- Promote diversity of service providers;
- Increase availability of advocacy;
- Make direct budgets available to users;
- Being applicable to prisons;
- Instruct local authorities to plan for their entire populations and make information and advice available to signpost people towards the help they request.
- In Wales we have moved further from the ‘care’ concept and towards the ‘well-being’ concept. (This places additional emphasis upon active involvement on the service user).
- There are new eligibility criteria based upon the individual being unable to attain their well-being goals without support from local services.
- Different funding arrangements from England’s where modified Dilnot proposals were accepted as a cap for care payments. As of Dec 2015 it is still not entirely clear what the Welsh formula for the cap is.
The Welsh Act is therefore materially different to the English Act. One effect of this will be that English court judgments may no longer be applicable to Wales. This would be a significant fork in the road with case law and ensuing legal interpretations becoming ‘country-specific’. The relatively small variations now are likely to deepen and widen over time. Welsh services will need to keep their eye on the ball if they are to keep up with the reforms and deliver the uniquely Welsh services that the people of Wales deserve.
Nic Bowler – QCS Expert Welsh Care Contributor