The Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee has now published its report on the Stage 1 scrutiny of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill. The Committee has spent the last 3 months hearing evidence from those who will deliver the services covered by the Bill and some of those who will use them. The report sets out the Committee’s conclusions and the 61 recommendations it has made on the general principles of the Bill.
The Committee is broadly supportive of the principles of the Bill, which include a new emphasis on preventative services and wellbeing and enhancing the voice of and control for people who use social services, but it has some misgivings about whether the policy objectives will be achieved in practice.
The report says the Bill needs statutory principles which set out what it aims to achieve. It suggests these might include: respect for dignity, autonomy and human rights; and promoting wellbeing, user involvement and the welfare of children.
A major issue for the Committee is the lack of detailed information on the proposed national eligibility framework which will set out who can receive care and support services. Without this information, the Committee believes, it is difficult to gauge the likely effectiveness of the Bill. It is also difficult to assess the costs of implementing the Bill and the Committee is concerned about the lack of information on this aspect too.
The Committee is critical of the way the Bill aims to improve the integration of services and believes this aspect needs strengthening, particularly integration between health and social services. Some of the duties on social services in the Bill, it says, should be more evenly shared with the NHS.
The report also expresses concerns about whether the repeal of existing legislation will erode current service provision, particularly for disabled children, carers and those who need aids and adaptations.
Other recommendations for improving the Bill include strengthening the powers around adult protection and keeping adults’ and children’s safeguarding bodies separate, making better provision for independent advocacy, removing powers to charge for certain services, and promoting direct payments.
The Welsh Government will formally respond to the Committee’s report and the Stage 2 scrutiny of the Bill, in which amendments will be considered, will commence in the autumn
Read the full report on the Committee’s website.
Article by Stephen Boyce, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.