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20th November 2015

The Gateway to Well-being: New Thoughts on Forthcoming Regulations for the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, 2014

Gate opening to endless road leading nowhereNew legislation in Wales means new duties, responsibilities and new regulations, which are currently being drafted. Anyway...the point is the new Well-being Act will require things to be done differently. If this wasn't the case then the zillions of work hours invested by various public-servants, departments of government and committees through the process of drafting, consultation, re-drafting and laying before the Assembly would never have been committed to the project.

The Well-being Project

So what exactly is the 'project'? Well, like elsewhere within the state's welfare provision there is a problem with demand. This applies to the NHS, benefits system and social care system. Demand is outstripping the ability to resource and provide. Too many people need too many things and local-government is feeling the pinch of a reduced funding settlement from HM Treasury. The options? We could ration services according to current regulations and service-models, or we could do something differently and build the management of cost-pressures into the new model. England and Wales both went for the latter option, hence the new way of ‘doing things.'

New 'Things' in the Act

So what ‘things’ exactly? Well, these seem to break down into two groups....firstly the things that we are told explicitly that will change and, secondly, the things which are implicit but logical in connection with the ways of working which are compatible with the new legislation.

What we definitely know is that we have to incorporate 8 'determinants' of well-being into our practice ( mental health ; protection; education, training and recreation; personal relationships; contribution to society; rights and entitlements; social and economic; accommodation). We have to accommodate a single new eligibility criteria; we have new safeguarding procedures; new arrangements for charging, financial assessment and direct-funding; new provision for social enterprises; increased availability of 'information advice and support'; new requirements for joint-working; increased provision for advocacy; and new arrangements for prisoners (see recent articles).

New Practice Requirements

There is also new guidance around assessment, regarding the capture of the well-being concept. This is where things become less-clear. There is a lot in the Act which will need enacting, but which will require interpretation and professional judgment. The assessment function is a case in point, as it challenges us to be clear about what we understand of the well-being concept before we consider how it is implemented in practice. If you like, the fault lines within the legislation will start to show if there are multiple and competing interpretations of what well-being means (which there are and will be). This may cause confusion and inertia within services, and a reluctance to adopt the new well-being concept, when it’s easier to stick with the care concept because it is known and familiar.

So the new regulations will be key to avoiding confusion and need to be clear, consistent, relevant, timely and applicable. They are going to be the gateway to implementation and a lot rests on them.

Paul Rees – QCS Expert Welsh Care Contributor

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