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17th February 2011

New social care blueprint is victory for common sense

A new blueprint for looking after vulnerable people and children in Wales has been hailed as a victory for common sense.  To download the guidance click here.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s White Paper on social care will help to slash red tape and concentrate resources on front line services.

The document, Sustainable Social Services for Wales: a Framework for Action, was unveiled in Cardiff today (Wednesday, February 17) by Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services.

The aim is to create three regional hubs to take over responsibility for commissioning services from the 22 local authorities in Wales.

The White Paper was welcomed by Care Forum Wales (CFW), the main body representing the independent social care sector in Wales.

According to Care Forum Wales, it was particularly pleased that plans for a national approach to assessing the needs of vulnerable people would help to end the postcode lottery in care and help to reduce pressure on the NHS.

The White Paper was published against a backdrop of cash-strapped local authorities paying “unrealistic fees” to independent care providers and a “lack of partnership working” from them.

CFW believes a better integration of the independent sector will help to reduced bed blocking in hospital by providing more appropriate and more cost-effective care in the community.

Chief Executive Mario Kreft said: “Care Forum Wales would like to commend the Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas, for the leadership she has shown and her commitment to the dignity in care and partnership agenda.

“Mrs Thomas and her colleagues have done an exemplary job in devising a new and coherent vision for the future.

“It’s been based on a wide-ranging consultation through an independent commission and it’s an opportunity we must seize.”

“We’re delighted with the White Paper because it’s a victory for common sense.

“It recognises that at a time of increasing need; with dwindling resources, this is a blueprint for action.

“The White Paper will enshrine in law the importance of the contribution of the independent sector in providing social care.

“In a couple of weeks Care Forum Wales will be coming of age when it celebrates its 18th anniversary.

“This is the only organisation that represents the whole of the independent sector in Wales and the independent providers who are going to have a place at the partnership table.

“According to the Welsh Assembly Government, we will be able to play a full role in developing provision and shaping the commissioning process – and this is music to our ears.

“At a time of austerity, this is about doing things better and more cost-effectively.

“We, like many other organisations, have been stressing that we simply cannot sustain 22 different ways of commissioning services with different eligibility criteria.

“In the case of social care, we also have local health boards to deal with so you can be a provider in Wales with 29 contracts. It flies in the face of the current financial reality.

“This new approach will mean that resources can be focused on the sharp end where they need to be.

“The changes will also mean more people can remain independent at home and those who need 'step-up' or 'step-down' facilities don’t need to go to hospital but can find another more appropriate service.

“Equally, those in hospital will be able to be discharged more promptly and more safely and supported in an appropriate community setting.

“The most damning failure of the current system is the lack of a national eligibility framework and portable assessments of need which led to a postcode lottery of care and huge, unnecessary pressure on the NHS.

“At Care Forum Wales, we have been calling for the proposed national framework since 1993 and we are delighted that this is a central plank of the new policy.

“The idea of having a single set of eligibility criteria that are transferable has to be right. It defies logic to have so many different contracts when we can streamline the service.

“This blueprint sets out a new approach and the ways of working in the past are no longer acceptable or fit for purpose.

“We need a new start and this provides us with a direction of travel. The fact that this is policy and that we are looking seriously at having three commissioning areas means that we can bring together the energy, experience and innovation that will be needed for the services of tomorrow.

“It’s right that social services is left within the sphere of local government as the delivery arm but it surely has to follow national policy in relation to provision and commissioning guidance.

“It’s essential that local authorities work in partnership and, importantly, within the legal framework.

“Another important element of the White Paper is the commitment to the development and professionalisation of the workforce which certainly chimes with our priorities.

“As the Health Service Ombudsman in England pointed out earlier this week, some of these issues are not about resources – they are about compassion and treating people with dignity and respect."

It was revealed yesterday that Fron Yw, a nursing home in Llandyrnog, in Denbighshire, is closing.

Meanwhile, the Southern Care Group, which has nine homes in Wrexham, Abergele, Prestatyn and Colwyn Bay, went into administration last year and Cardiff City Council is cutting the number of agencies currently providing care at home services to the elderly and infirm from 56 to 11 as part of a “fundamentally flawed” process.

A recent High Court judgement in relation to four care homes in Pembrokeshire found that the County Council there had acted unlawfully because it had not followed Assembly guidance.

The judge made it clear that this can no longer continue and councils will have to show compelling reasons if they deviate from that guidance.


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