12 November 2013
Article by Steve Boyce, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Welsh Government recently published a White Paper on regulating and inspecting social care services in Wales. It sets out proposals for legislation – a Bill is planned for 2015. Last week Welsh Government officials provided a ‘technical briefing’ on the White Paper to the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee.
The White Paper does not propose radical change to the regulatory functions of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), which would remain the service regulator, and the Care Council for Wales (CCW) which will continue to oversee workforce matters. However, CCW would be given a wider service improvement function and would be renamed the National Institute of Care and Support.
In keeping with the Welsh Government’s policy aim of enhancing user empowerment, the White Paper proposes to improve service transparency. Care service providers would be required to publish an annual report, information held by CSSIW would be more readily accessible, and there would be greater public involvement in the work of CSSIW.
There would also be a shift away from the current focus on individual service settings towards the regulation of service providers. That, coupled with strengthened corporate accountability and new duties on local authorities to assess supply and demand in their areas, would allow the regulator to monitor the financial health and corporate stability of key providers. This in turn would allow better contingency planning and, it is hoped, help maintain services in the event of provider failure. Providers themselves would be required to assess the risks to service continuity and make clear how they would respond to any difficulties.
Such proposals, together with plans for greater integration across regulation and inspection bodies would, the Welsh Government believes, provide the flexibility needed to respond to new and emerging models of care, including those that cross service boundaries such as health and social care.
The White Paper proposes retaining workforce registration in its current form. Plans to extend registration to all care staff were shelved some time ago, and voluntary registration will not be taken forward. However, registration of new groups of staff such as foster carers, independent advocates and social services inspectors remains a possibility. The consultation seeks views on the desirability of introducing “negative registration” of those found unfit to practise.
Finally The White Paper raises the issue of whether regulatory functions in relation to social care should remain inside the Welsh Government. This may prompt a debate about the best way to ensure independent regulation.
Since the current legislation, the Care Standards Act 2000 was introduced, models of service provision and public expectations of them have moved on, and concern about the quality of care services and the financial sustainability of some providers has grown. Next year the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill will begin to create a new framework for social care services in Wales. The Welsh Government and the care sector will be hoping that these proposals can meet the challenges of this new care landscape and help to ensure that users of care services and their families can be confident of consistently high quality services.
The consultation on the White Paper runs until 6 January 2014.