Is recovery in Wales under way?

Along with many of the country’s major towns, social services in Wales are showing signs of recovery following years in the doldrums.

From the historic, regenerated capital, Cardiff, with its new parliament building, Millennium culture centre and vibrant night life to the quaint seaside villages of the Pembrokeshire coast or rural tranquillity of the Rhondda valleys, working and living in Wales has rarely been so attractive.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems: high social worker vacancy rates, an assembly still fighting for complete legislative powers and high rates of ill health and deprivation among the
population still pose severe challenges for social services.

But, as you will see over the pages of this supplement, there are real signs Welsh social services have started to turn the corner and in collaboration with the voluntary and private sectors are beginning to develop innovative ways of tackling these issues.

Traditionally, Wales’ geography has been a hindrance to delivering effective and efficient services – small communities spread over wide areas, a poor transport network and high rural population all pose practical problems for social services.  However, the country’s 22 local authorities are now increasingly looking at collaborating in jointly designing, commissioning and
delivering services as a way of sharing expertise and spreading the load.

The Welsh assembly and Welsh Local Government Association are fully behind such moves and have developed the Social Services Improvement Agency to help co-ordinate the effort.
Politically, the assembly has dramatically improved the profile and priority given to social services in Wales, but the future is uncertain as the assembly government’s second term comes to
an end – elections are due next year – and the drop in public spending by Westminster filters down.

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