Welsh social services departments will continue to be led by a single director under proposals in the country’s long-awaited 10-year strategy for the sector.
The draft strategy, published for consultation last week by the Welsh assembly government, says social services should remain a key part of local government and eschews England’s approach of splitting children’s and adult’s services.
Although it lacks specific proposals on how changes should be achieved, the consultation document says social care providers should spend more time delivering preventive services to reduce the number of people who will need more intensive support.
Key to this will be joint working with health, housing and education agencies to identify and help all client groups at an earlier stage.
The strategy also says services must be more person-centred, and the assembly government has pledged to overhaul the unified assessment process to achieve this.
However, it recognises that falling birth rates and increasing numbers of older people may mean the balance of resources needs to be shifted. It also says the shortage of qualified social workers – exacerbated by a 50 per cent rise in demand for services over the past five years – needs to be addressed if services are to improve.
Social services groups have welcomed the strategy’s focus on prevention and the involvement of the sector in shaping delivery.
However, Beverlea Frowen, head of policy at the Welsh Local Government Association, said some would be disappointed by the lack of detail.
Welsh health minister Dr Brian Gibbons has also suggested that councils introduce para-professionals to carry out less important functions, thus enabling qualified social workers to concentrate on more complex cases.
Tony Garthwaite, workforce lead at the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru, welcomed the idea, saying that councils still had well qualified social workers doing menial work “and we need to get the best out of them.”
Fulfilled Lives, Supportive Communities Consultation ends on 15 November.