The Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Bill update

01/11/2013

The Social Services & Well being (Wales) Bill is currently passing through the Welsh Assembly law making process. It is expected to become law in the first half of 2014 and to be in force by 2015.

It is a substantial piece of legislation which will have the effect of bringing the current very piecemeal range of legislative provisions and guidance that has governed the provision of social care for decades in to one easily accessible format reflective of current practice. In the process a lot of existing legislation will be repealed.

At the same time, in England, a similar reform process is under way with the Care and Support Bill.

The two pieces of legislation set out to do the same thing – to simplify the law and to bring social care support up to date – but they do it differently.

The Welsh Bill will:

Impose a duty  to promote the “well being” of all service users including children and carers, and to take into account, so far as reasonably practicable, the views, wishes and feelings of the people, including carers, who are in need of support 
Requires local authorities to assess the need that exists for support, to put preventative services in place, to work with a variety of not for profit and social enterprises to provide support services, and to provide information services 
Provide a mechanism for the assessment of support needs both for people in direct need of support and also, importantly, for carers, where there is an appearance of need
Provide for services to meet needs 
Make arrangements for care packages to travel with service users who move from one area to another
Set out how charging will work
Detail arrangements for the provision of support to looked after children
Make arrangements for safeguarding vulnerable people
Set out arrangements for complaints etc

What is innovative about the Bill is that it deals equally with adults, children and carers, and it sets out in one place how the process of accessing support services should work. What is less clear, at least at this stage, is the detail of exactly how the Bill will work in practice. This is because the Bill is an “enabling” statute, which sets out the broad framework for the provision of support but reserves much of the detail to Regulations which have yet to be published.

But in terms of impact on support services that already exist, our (hopefully not too optimistic) view is that the Bill will not radically alter existing provision, so the Bill when it is passed should not lead to any major changes to support as it is currently being provided. 

Changes that you may be experiencing to support services now, however, are almost certainly due to cuts in local authority budgets. If you, or some one you care for, are being adversely affected by proposed or actual reductions or cuts in care which may leave you vulnerable or unable to cope then you should definitely seek appropriate advice and assistance - such cuts may well not be lawful.  If that is happening then please seek advice without delay. Legal aid is still available for those on low incomes who wish to challenge service cuts.

But the aim of the new Social Services & Well being Bill is positive and will hopefully herald more accessible and fair access to support services for people in Wales henceforth.


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