Sixty second interview with Brian Gibbons
By Amy Taylor
Brian Gibbons has taken over from Jane Hutt as the new minister for health and social care in Wales.
What are going to be your top three priorities in your new role relating to social care?
I would like to strengthen joint working between health and social care, assimilate best practice across Wales and make sure social services fully protect and promote wellbeing of vulnerable children and adults.
The Nursing and Midwifery Committee Wales recently said that it could be impossible to implement the draft mental health bill when it becomes law in Wales. The government is aiming for this to be in 2007, as it says Wales’ mental health services are 10 years behind the rest of the UK. Do you think that the 2007 deadline is adequate and how do you hope to improve mental health services in Wales to enable the bill to be successfully implemented?
I do not accept that Wales is 10 years behind England and it is too early to anticipate the final requirement of the Bill.
Social services departments in Wales have become synonymous with poor performance. How do you hope to change this?
There are some poor performers where intensive intervention is taking place and it would be wrong to over-generalise from the very poor performance of a few authorities. The chief social services inspector’s report emphasises the need for services to improve more quickly and also recognises that there are many examples of very good practice. There is a strong commitment to working together to improve services on the part of the Welsh Assembly Government and all the local authorities in Wales.
Why do you think Welsh social services have been under-performing in comparison to some of their English counterparts over recent years?
While the best in Wales may not be performing as good as the very best in England, the same would apply to most English social service departments. Where there has been under-performance, there have been problems of resourcing, political and managerial leadership as well as under-valuing the job that social services do in some areas.
You have recently decided to stop the Welsh Assembly’s policy of pressing for unilateral adoption of free personal care for older people in Wales, arguing that the money would be better spent on free domiciliary care. What are your reasons behind this argument and are you going to try to get free domiciliary care built into policy?
The Assembly never had a policy of unilateral adoption of free personal care. The Assembly government’s commitment is to provide free home care for disabled people in Wales. We are working to deliver this at the earliest feasible opportunity.