A blueprint for reforming social services in Wales over the next 10 years will be published in early 2011, the Welsh Assembly government has announced.
Speaking at the National Social Services Conference in Wales for 2010, deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas, said the White Paper would help map out the future for the sector ahead of the Welsh assembly elections in May 2011.
“In announcing my intention today to produce a White Paper I am preparing to establish a comprehensive statement on the future of social services in the medium and long term for Wales,” she said. “I believe that the success of 10 years of devolution and the challenge of our time makes it right to create a new consensus on the future of social services in Wales.”
The White Paper will draw on the findings of five ongoing reviews set up by ministers over the last year, including an independent commission for social services, chaired by Professor Geoffrey Pearson.
It will also build on recommendations from a task group to improve support for the social care workforce; and a review of regulation regarding social services, which are all due to be published by the end of this year.
Also speaking at the conference in Llandudno, Geoffrey Pearson disclosed early findings of the commission he is chairing. This was launched to examine how the needs of children and adults could be met more effectively by the social care sector in Wales, which currently receives annual funding of £1.2bn.
Children in care said they wanted more openness and transparency about decisions which affected their lives, he said.
They were often left feeling confused and hurt by a succession of different professionals taking responsibility for their case, as Pearson explained: “Their lives are punctured by people – social workers – who disappear without explanation.”
Carers and adult service users had repeatedly raised concerns about overly-strict eligibility criteria, delays to services being delivered, and a lack of information sharing between agencies, he said.
But Pearson warned that vulnerable children were in danger of being “marginalised in the debate about reforming services for older people.
“We want people to live healthy and fulfilling lives as they get older, but we need to get the balance right – children might start getting drowned out.”