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26th October 2015

5 Things you need to know about the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

This article summarises key-features of the Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales), 2014 (SSWA). It reviews the scale, scope, focus, funding and training requirements.

  1. Not just another piece of legislation – A game changer: This is the largest piece of legislation passed by the Welsh Government since they received their current devolved powers, and the most significant piece of legislation affecting the Welsh care sector for 15 years. It draws together policy and law regulating social care into a single overarching piece of legislation. The Act was passed by the Welsh government in 2014 and will be enacted (i.e. it becomes 'live') in April, 2016.
  1. Well-being Scoped, Person-Centred and Outcome Focused: These characteristics may sound like empty rhetoric, but ensuring they are embedded into the support and care process - from assessment to evaluation - is likely to be central to the inspection regime. The well-being concept is predicated on a ‘super-high’ level of service user involvement. The Act therefore champions a wholly person-centred approach to care, requiring active choice-making and clearly articulated wishes on the part of the service-user or their advocate. Similarly the Act prescribes an approach to planning support which emphasises outcomes to be worked towards, as opposed to interventions which are intended to 'maintain' the individual within the status quo. Services will need to think clearly about how they can demonstrate practice which supports SSWA compatible practice.
  1. Directly Funded Support Packages: There are changes to funding arrangements which are likely to mean that more service users, or their proxies, are given their own directly funded support budgets to manage. The local authority (LA) will undertake the assessment of need, using the eligibility criteria known as the ‘can and can only test.’ The test is called this as it looks for other ways of meeting need which are not dependent on local authority funding, hence resources will be devoted to supporting and signposting individuals to accessible services in the statutory, independent and voluntary sector which the LA does not directly fund. If the need meets the eligibility criteria, funding will be made available. From there, the service user or nominated proxy will be free to choose a service from locally regulated preferred providers, or to take responsibility for sourcing their own care. This is intended to lead to a ‘race to the top,’ i.e. pursuit of higher levels of service-user satisfaction, given that the service user will have greater freedom to spend their budget elsewhere, if care does not measure up.
  1. Changes to Safeguarding Arrangements: Part 7 (Safeguarding) of the Act covers the strengthening of arrangements for individuals at risk which includes new and expanded legislation to protect children and adults, including a wider-duty to report and enquire where there is any reasonable cause to suspect abuse and neglect. The SSWA also includes a new ‘Adult Protection and Support Order’ to protect an especially vulnerable person. These arrangements will be monitored regionally by new Safeguarding Adults Boards and nationally by a National Independent Safeguarding Board.
  1. SSWA Compatible Training and The Social Care Induction Framework (SCIF): There are training issues for professionals, managers and all direct care staff across the board, with many existing programmes requiring revamping in line with the SSWA. Services will need to be proactive in reviewing their training requirements. One programme which is highly compatible with the SSWA is the SCIF, which provides a good basis for support workers to develop their SSWA compatible practice. It is also likely that SCIF compliance will form an important component of inspection.

All in all, there are a number of challenges to services, in developing their practice around these 5 key areas.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Nic Bowler

Welsh Care and Social Services Inspectorate Specialist

Dr Nicholas Bowler is a researcher and consultant to government-level [Welsh Government Review of Secure Services, 2009] – specialising in QA/compliance focused projects. He has interests in clinically relevant training, service development and research. He enjoys working with clients to support them in identifying problems and initiating projects to improve practice.

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