Wales and England tread different paths on social care law

The Welsh Assembly has made social care a legislative priority. Ed Mitchell reviews the changes that have occurred and those planned

The Welsh Assembly has made social care a legislative priority. Ed Mitchell reviews the changes that have occurred and those planned

Social care in Wales is changing fast. Since attaining the power to make what is, in effect, primary legislation for Wales, the National Assembly for Wales has made social care a legislative priority. The result is that we are seeing an increasing divergence in social care law in England and Wales.

Care charges

In January 2010, the Social Care Charges (Wales) Measure 2010 was passed by the assembly. This gives Welsh ministers powers to set out in regulations a uniform method of assessing the finances of users of non-residential adult care services in Wales. It also allows Welsh ministers to make regulations so that some services are to be provided free of charge to all, or specified categories of, service users.

Carers

A Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure is now before the assembly. If passed, it will require joint strategies between local government and the NHS about how they work together in relation to matters related to carers. These include provision of information and advice for carers and consultation with carers before decisions are taken about persons being cared for.

Care standards

Differences between England and Wales are not only caused by the enactment of measures by the assembly. Sometimes, legislation at Westminster makes changes for England but leaves Welsh law in place. For example, the Health and Social Care Act 2008, which comes fully into force this month, creates a new regulatory system for adult social care and health care. It replaces the regulatory system for adult social care contained in the Care Standards Act 2000. In Wales, however, the Care Standards Act 2000 remains in force and so the two nations will soon have different regulatory frameworks.

Children

The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 will, when fully in force, require local authorities in Wales to have child poverty strategies. The measure requires authorities to take the steps specified in their strategies for reducing child poverty. Also, this wide-ranging measure will establish integrated family support teams, which have both local authority and NHS representation, and require Welsh local authorities to appoint “family social work standards officers”.

Special educational needs

The Education (Wales) Measure 2009 provides for children in Wales to have the right to appeal to a tribunal in special educational needs cases. Currently, only parents have this right.

Mental health

The Welsh ministers have committed to introduce a measure soon about the provision of mental health services in Wales. The official announcement says it would make provision about assessment and advocacy services.

Welsh language

A distinguishing feature of Wales is its unique language. A Welsh Language Measure is now before the assembly. A long and detailed piece of legislation, this would enact a framework for the making of standards about the provision of services in Welsh. These include “service delivery standards” which could set standards about the provision of care services through the medium of Welsh.

➔ More on integrated family support teams

Ed Mitchell is Community Care‘s legal expert and also a senior legislative counsel responsible for drafting the Welsh ministers’ legislative programme

This article is published in the 8 April 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Chasm on social care emerges between England and Wales”

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