More social workers in Wales are set to get the opportunity to train as best interests assessors after the Welsh government announced £137,000 of funding for councils and health boards to boost numbers.
The move is a direct response to the impact of a Supreme Court ruling in March that effectively lowered the threshold for a deprivation of liberty in care and triggered a nine-fold increase in the number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards cases (Dols). The ruling has overwhelmed Dols teams in England and Wales, with statutory timescales breached in half of the cases received in the six months after the judgment.
Best interests assessors (BIAs), most of whom are social workers, play a crucial role in Dols cases in determining whether a person has or will be deprived or their liberty and whether this would be in their best interests. A review of the Dols in Wales, carried out in the two months following the Supreme Court ruling, found that many local authorities had insufficient BIA numbers and staff complained that managers too often perceived the BIA role as an ‘add on’ to casework.
Mark Drakeford, the health and social services minister in Wales, said: “The role of the best interests assessor is an essential part of ensuring [a person’s] rights are safeguarded when, as a consequence of the care and treatment a person needs, they are deprived of their liberty. That’s why I have announced extra funding to train more people to help this process.”