More interagency working but no social services split in plan for Wales

The Welsh assembly government’s 10-year social care policy paper will advocate stronger ties between social work and other agencies but will stop short of recommending a split of children’s and adults’ social services.

Social justice and regeneration minister Edwina Hart has said that the strategy – given a working title of Designed for Care – will detail how social services should work together with housing and health agencies to tackle problems such as homelessness and delayed transfers of care of older people from hospital.

But unlike recent reforms in England, the strategy will not recommend the division of social services departments or the joining of children’s and adults’ services with education and health respectively.

Instead, it will outline how social work can have a bigger role in developing and delivering preventive services rather than just focusing on helping society’s most vulnerable people.

The strategy, which will set a series of targets for all social care services, will focus on services’ sustainability and how departments can revamp services to deal with increasing demand. For older people’s services, this will mean embracing new technology to offer telecare in people’s homes.

It will also put greater emphasis on developing professionals’ commissioning skills and the importance of managing the social care market, now that most services are bought from the independent sector.

Beverlea Frowen, head of policy at the Welsh Local Government Association, which is working with the assembly government on the strategy, said it would reaffirm social services as an integral part of local government in its own right.

She said the strategy would “knit together” existing policy papers in the way that Designed for Life did for the NHS last year. While it would talk about social care’s relationship with other agencies, this would not be its main focus, she added.

A report for the assembly’s social justice and regeneration committee said the paper would suggest a greater focus on prevention and a balanced approach to managing overall community needs, not just targeted help.

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