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The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act provides a ground-breaking legal framework for improving the well-being of adults and children who need care and support, and for transforming the way care and support is provided now and in the future.
This is important legislation, with the Act:
- promoting the integration of health and social care
- encouraging people to become independent to give them stronger voice and control over their lives
- giving people greater freedom to decide what support they need
- promoting consistent, high-quality services across the country.
Voluntary organisations can support the Act by meeting the following key principles:
- Voice and control: Putting the individual adult or child, including unpaid carers, at the centre of their care and support. They should be allowed control to reach the outcomes that help them achieve well-being across all aspects of their lives. Many voluntary organisations already operate in this manner and are user-led or provide advocacy in a variety of forms.
- Prevention and early intervention: Increasing preventative services within the community to stop needs growing.
- Co-production: Encouraging individuals to become more involved in the design and delivery of services that they need. Many voluntary organisations already work in this way, and more providers can learn from their expertise.
- Multi agency: Strong partnership working between all agencies and organisations, with integration being the key driver for change.
- People: Children, adults and carers, their families and communities are rich assets and at the centre of the framework for working. Talking and listening to people is key to delivering well-being and unlocking the potential for creativity.
- Well-being: supporting people to achieve their own well-being and measuring the success of care and support. ‘Well-being’ is a broad term applied across several areas within the Act and includes safeguarding (the prevention of and protection from abuse, harm and neglect), but it also applies to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of an individual.
The Act demands a change in culture to help individuals achieve their well-being outcomes: firstly, by asking ‘What matters to you?’ and, secondly, by maximising an individual’s own support networks and access to community and voluntary resources. The aim is to shift the balance away from long term care and support, wherever possible. The voluntary sector is key to supporting this culture change.
THE ROLE OF THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR
The Act sets out a vision for a stronger role for the voluntary sector and social value organisations in implementation:
- Part 9 of the Act sets out arrangements for co-operation; actively encouraging partnership working across sectors and with individuals who need care and support.
- Part 9 also sets out the duty to establish seven Regional Partnership Boards to include third sector organisations within the membership.
- Section 16 (2) of the Act states that local authorities are required to promote care and support services, including services for carers, and preventative services which are provided by social enterprises, co-operatives, user-led organisations and third sector organisations.
- Section 16 (1) of the Act imposes a duty on local authorities to promote how social enterprises, co-operative organisations, co-operative arrangements and third sector organisations provide care, support and preventative services in their area.
Each local and regional area will produce a Population Needs Assessment and a Local Area Plan which set out local priorities.
DEVELOPING REGIONAL SOCIAL VALUE FORUMS
The Code of Practice for the Act (Part 2) requires that seven Regional Social Value Forums are established to bring together ‘social value’ organisations / providers, including the voluntary sector, to develop good practice and innovation and support the Regional Partnership Boards to achieve the best possible outcomes for people in need of care and support.
Read about a multi-agency response to a family where there have been incidences of adverse childhood experiences and/or incident of domestic abuse or neglect, but none of which have yet reached the threshold for a statutory intervention or safeguarding referral.
Read about a women’s and girls’ patient-led group that first started life as a Facebook page in late 2014, which has since transformed into a campaign for better access and services for women generally, including on issues relating to miscarriage, menopause and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
‘The biggest hurdle to overcome during Covid-19 has been the loss of personal time and space. The withdrawal of services combined with lockdown has made it impossible to have a break from caring.’ Read about what Tide has been doing to continue vital support for carers.
PART 7 SAFEGUARDING
Safeguarding is an over-arching theme of the Act. The details can be found under Part 7.
The Act reinforces existing safeguarding arrangements for children through the introduction of a new duty for statutory partners including commissioned or funded service providers to report to the local authority any ‘child at risk’.
A child may be termed ‘at risk’ when they:
- have care and support needs (whether these are being met or not) and,
- appear to be at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.
An ‘adult at risk’ is also defined within the Act. A local authority is required to investigate where they suspect that an adult with care and support needs is at risk of abuse or neglect. Adult protection and support orders are introduced to authorise entry to premises for the purpose of enabling an authorised officer to assess whether an adult is at risk of abuse or neglect and, if so, what, if any, action should be taken.
Relevant partners are placed under a duty to report to the appropriate local authority where they suspect that people (adult or children) may be at risk of abuse or neglect. Regulation 6 requires the six regional Safeguarding Boards to give children or adults who are, or may be, affected by the exercise of the Board’s functions an opportunity to participate in its work. There may be a role here for local voluntary or community organisations to support this participation.
Functions of the safeguarding boards include:
- to review the training needs of and promote the provision of suitable training for persons working to achieve the Board’s objectives
- to arrange and facilitate an annual programme of multi-agency professional forums
Both these opportunities should include the voluntary sector.
ACCESS TO ADVOCACY AND INFORMATION, ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE
Section 181 sets out that an individual must feel that they are an equal partner in their relationship with professionals and can invite someone of their choice to support them to participate fully and express their views wishes and feelings.
This support can be provided by friends, family or wider support network. Some individuals will have a right to a formal, professional advocacy service.
Section 17 requires that local authorities provide a local information, advice and assistance service and must publish information about:
- How the care and support system operate in the local authority area
- The types of care and support available
- How to access the care and support that is available
- How to raise concerns about the well-being of a person who appears to have needs for care and support
This service must be accessible to all.
An easy read version of the Act has been written by Welsh Government, with specific information related to young people, carers, older people and disabled people.
Information and resources about the Act can be found at the Hub, hosted by Social Care Wales.