The Minister for Health and Social Services introduced the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care(Wales) Bill yesterday and is due to make an Oral Statement in the Chamber this afternoon (Tuesday 24 February 2015). The Bill as introduced and the Explanatory Memorandum can be found on the National Assembly for Wales’ website here.
The Welsh Government published Sustainable Social Services for Wales: a Framework for Action in 2011, setting out its programme to reform the provision of care and support in Wales.
The Welsh Government originally planned to include reforms to the inspection and regulation of social care in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, but decided in June 2012 to make these the subject of a separate Bill.
The Welsh Government published its White Paper – The future of Regulation and Inspection of care and support in Wales for consultation in January 2014. The consultation closed in April 2014, and the Welsh Government has published a summary of the consultation responses.
Aims and objectives
The key aims of the Bill are to secure well-being for citizens and to improve the quality of care and support in Wales. To achieve these aims, nine objectives have been set:
- To place the citizen at the heart of the system.
- To create a system that understands the impact of services on the lives of people.
- To ensure providers of services are appropriately accountable.
- To improve information sharing and co-operation.
- To understand better the future and avoid unexpected failures.
- To make a step change in the improvement agenda.
- To support the development of the best workforce possible.
- To deliver a robust and transparent system of regulation for service providers and for the workforce.
- To reduce complexity of the law and provide future flexibility
In the Explanatory Memorandum, the Welsh Government notes that lessons need to be learned from serious incidents such as Southern Cross, Mid Staffs and Winterbourne, which involved the abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults in England, and Operation Jasmine which is currently the subject of an independent review commissioned by the Welsh Government into abuse and neglect at care homes in South Wales.
Main elements of the Bill
The Bill proposes to introduce changes to:
- reform the regulatory regime for care and support services – which includes a new service based model of regulation, provisions to monitor the operation of the care market, better public engagement, and powers to introduce inspection quality ratings and to charge fees.
- reform the inspection regime and regulation of local authority social services functions by amending the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 – which includes the consideration of outcomes for service users in reviews of social services performance, increased public involvement, and a new duty on local authorities to report on local markets for social care services.
- reconstitute and re-name the Care Council for Wales as Social Care Wales and broaden its remit in relation to service improvement; to include giving advice and assistance (including grants) to care and support service providers, and undertaking research studies
- reform regulation of the social care workforce – which includes the removal of voluntary registration, and the introduction of prohibition orders (to ban certain people from social care work). It does not extend registration to new categories of staff but provides powers to do so.
Possible quality standards and ratings
The Bill states that Welsh Minister may impose requirements on regulated service providers through regulations, such as specifying the standard of care and support that must be provided. It also states that the Welsh Ministers may, by regulations, make provision about inspection ratings in relation to the quality of care and support provided by a service provider. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) states that the proposal for quality ratings is the most significant change to inspections and that prior to this power being utilised there will need to be significant consultation with stakeholders and the public in order to establish the right approach.
The Bill requires local authorities to produce and publish local market stability reports which must include an assessment of the sufficiency of the provision of care and support in the area. It also requires the Welsh Ministers to monitor and review the financial sustainability of certain service providers. The Welsh Ministers must inform local authorities where service provider failure is likely in their area, and must prepare and publish national reports about the stability of the market for social care services in Wales.
Article by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.