Welsh government announces radical social care reforms

Welsh government plans to shake up social services in a bid to make them more sustainable and put people at the heart of the system

In radical reforms of the social care system, the Welsh government has given councils have until the end of the year to develop proposals for regional social care teams and say they are putting people at the heart of the system.

Around 150,000 people receive some form of social care in Wales every year, according to the assembly government, and more will become dependent on such services or have a relative that relies or have a relative that relies on them. It said it anticipated a "real and unsustainable increase in demands" prompting major reforms.

It said the plans would tackle duplication in social care services between local authorities in the region.

As part of its proposals – laid out in the Sustainable Social Services for Wales document – the assembly will introduce portable assessments, so that if a person moves location they do not have to have their needs reassessed; establish a national outline contract for care homes to improve consistency of services, and also a National Adoption Agency.

"This is a visionary statement on the future of our social services for the next decade," said Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services. "We have used this opportunity to think carefully about the small number of big changes that we need to focus on to make a positive impact and renew social services in Wales.

She added: "Social services must become sustainable but sustainability means much more than funding. It will require more fundamental changes than simply becoming smarter at what we already do. We need to focus on what is really important and ensure that we are all working to the same ends by securing more efficient and effective ways to deliver services through greater collaboration and integration. This paper gives us the means to do that."

Other measures proposed in the document include giving social and social care workers more prominence; "cutting complexity" by reducing the number of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and reducing "detailed guidance sent out by government"; and better integrating services by rolling out integrated family support teams.

Carwyn Jones, the first minister said: "High quality responsive citizen centred social services are essential to a successful Wales. I expect services to be built round people not organisations."

Welsh ministers said that they will seek powers to enforce changes if councils fail to come up with satisfactory proposals by the end of 2011.

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